How to negotiate a project

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How to negotiate a project

A very common first step in any negotiation is to identify who the stakeholders are.  On a typical web development project, the stakeholders are your client, his boss and some probable influencers like the accountant or the cable guy :) .  Don’t get me wrong, many times the influencers are not the people you think they are. On your side, the influencers are all your team members that work on the project.  Identifying this group is key, since they will try to influence you and push you to their side.  Trying to develop a win-win strategy is the challenge, and this is how you do it.

Once you have identified the stakeholders, the next step is to write down, in two columns, your interests and your client’s interests.  Completing this exercise helps determine both sides are looking for. For example: your client asks you to develop an Android application based on one you did last summer that came out well.  From a friend, you heard that the client plans to develop five more apps this year; one Android App, one Iphone App and three different websites. Your client has asked you to develop only one of them, the Android one, and you don’t know anything else about the other opportunities.  Now, after you present the quote, they claim that your quote is too high and that you need to lower. If this situation arises, write down your company’s interests and the client’s interests as follows:


  1. Win the business
  2. Not lose the client
  3. Get some of the other contracts you know about
  4. Not lose money
  5. Create a great product


  1. Get the best price
  2. Obtain a well developed product
  3. Stay with a vendor that they can trust
  4. Finish the product on time and on budget

Once you have figured out both parties’ interests, start matching your interests with theirs to add value to the negotiation.  Using the previous example, you know that one of your interests is to obtain the other contracts your friend told you about.  Also, you know that one of their interests is to get the best price.  If the interests are combined and you become creative, you can add value to the negotiation, saying something like this to your client, “I know you asked me to lower my price, but, it is difficult for me to do it with only one project. However, things change if two projects are bought from us, because I can tell my boss we are getting more business. Do you have another project for this year?” Moreover, let’s say that part of your team, the Drupal team, does not have any project for this month, so you can persuade your boss to accept the second project at a lower price, as this project is less risky for you.   On top of that, instead of lowering the first quote, try adding features that won’t cost you much but that will add value to the negotiation.  For example, you could offer to host the project for the first 6-months. It’s easy, and very low cost. If you offer this benefit, you’ll save the client money and you could well win a second contract.

Negotiation is always about interests and adding value.  Be creative and dig into your clients interests before you lower your price.  If you focus your strategy on the $$ value, you will always lose.

Hint:  A good practice is to have a small spreadsheet template listing these steps, so you can repeat them at every negotiation.

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