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Thursday, June 25, 2009


Dealing With Giants
with Claudine Halpern

Making it Legal, Handshake Commitments, Letters of intent, Contract Negotiation

So you think you have a sale, before you celebrate, crack open the champagne and call all your friends and colleagues, make it legal, GET IT ON PAPER.

Uh oh, does that mean that you need to engage a lawyer now, not really. What you need to do is make sure that you are going to get paid for the work that you do and product that you sell.

I am a service provider, and I get paid for thinking, talking and figuring things out for the BIG BOYS. Other firms are product providers; they sell real things that you can hold in your hand. Either way you need to get paid, lets talk about how you make sure that you get what’s yours, I always tell clients don’t start to work unless the paperwork is signed, that does not necessarily mean that the entire legal work must be done before you start but you need to have a confidence level that you will get paid.

I have one long term client who I have worked with many times over the last fifteen years, we have never put anything on paper or signed a contract and I have always gotten paid in a timely manner. I know him and his firm, and when we work together I know that he will pay.

I have other clients, who have detailed contracts that we sign every time we work together, and some of them just treat the contract like toilet paper, I am bound by the terms as an honest person, but they are not. I could sue, but it brings negative energy into my life and impacts my business reputation, even if I am right.

LAWYERS COST A LOT OF MONEY….my recommendation is don’t count on the courts to get you paid, count on your understanding of the people that you are dealing with and your trust of them, and do the paperwork.

How do you decide how much paperwork you need with each customer? Good question, in politics it’s called trust but verify.

Closing the DEAL with the BIG BOYS

This one is tough THERE IS NO SINGLE SUCCESSFUL WAY TO CLOSE A DEAL, you will have to wing it, we all do, and it’s different every time. Some people will give you tricks to close a deal, but we know that’s not the way it works,

When the BIG BOY wants and needs what you’re selling and trusts you, he will buy. Make sure to ask for the business, give the BIG BOY a schedule (make sure the schedule starts tomorrow) and get to work.

Handshake Commitments

If you know and trust the people that you are dealing with, then this can work. With the BIG BOYS it’s a risk as people change jobs, get fired, the direction of the firm changes, and you are left with no one to go to. Use sparingly, I do not work on handshakes with BIG BOYS.

Letters of Intent

Letters of intent are quasi-legal documents, these are usually used when contract negotiations are protracted and the product or work is required on a short schedule. I use these often, especially for large deals. This way we can start getting paid before the contract is complete.

Contracts and Contract Negotiations

This is an art all it’s own, many people use standard contracts that are easily understood, no problem there. Make sure that you understand the legalese and every section. Don’t assume anything.

Complex contracts need more work, I have seen contracts that have chargeback clauses where a small firm can provide everything as required and still never get paid, legally, so be careful and be smart. Get advisors to help you, and no, not your brother in law, unless he’s a lawyer or experienced businessman.

Protracted contract negotiations are very common among the big boys, so be prepared and be smart.

I once represented a small firm in a contract negotiation with one of the BIG BOYS. After many months of getting nowhere, and over a hundred pages of contract, I started getting tired of the run around. I filled two sealed boxes, each held two versions of the contract, ours and the BIG BOYS. I then put a signature page outside the box and insisted that both parties sign on the outside, they did not know what I put in the boxes. They though it was funny and signed, contract negotiations over and done. These partners never referred to the contract again, the small firm has a satisfied customer and the BIG BOY has a great product and service provider.

Congratulations, You’ve got the business……….

Next Article; Selling to the BIG BOYS; Doing the Job, Managing your Reputation and Getting Paid

About Claudine Halpern

Claudine Halpern is a chameleon; she has worked in many different situations during her more than twenty-five years in business; as a management consultant, Claudine advised many of the major brokerage, insurance, and financial houses, completing more than fifteen major corporate initiatives during the past ten years. As a crisis manager for major corporations, Claudine successfully brought in projects and products that other firms would not touch. As a specialist in business and management consultancy, Claudine consults to emerging businesses across the spectrum.


For more information, please see Claudine's TNNW Bio.

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