5 Steps to Master the Art of Negotiation in Clinical Research

April Schultz
August 22nd, 2019

Negotiation is a significant function of clinical research sites, particularly during discussions with sponsors regarding clinical trial agreements (CTA) and budgets. Sites need to clearly and fairly communicate their needs during these discussions in order to gain the budget and support necessary to successfully conduct a clinical trial. However, negotiating isn’t always an easy task and it’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most individuals. Here are five steps you can take to improve your communication with sponsors and bring you closer to mastering the art of negotiation.

1. Prepare an action plan in advance.

You can gain a significant advantage by preparing before you begin negotiating with a sponsor. Know what you’re going to ask of them, where you’re willing to compromise and how you will respond in the event of a stalemate. Anticipating sponsor offers and having a plan-of-action will allow you to make quick, smart decisions during the discussion and have you feeling more confident as you enter negotiations.

Answer these four questions to help you prepare:

  • What information do you need to make informed decisions?
  • Where and how can you gather this information?
  • What are the “right” questions to ask and when?
  • What is your ultimate goal or desired outcome?

2. Know your leverage.

“Positive leverage” is a negotiator’s ability to provide things that his opponent wants. In the case of clinical research, you can exert positive leverage by highlighting the aspects of your site that make it better-suited for a study than the rest.

In your negotiations, leverage is the ability to influence sponsors to move closer to your preferred offer. Understanding your leverage, or “unique value proposition,” is essential to boosting your negotiating power and achieving a favorable outcome. Assess your site’s strengths, skills, tools and successes to determine the unique value you can provide a sponsor and be sure to highlight this positive leverage in your negotiations.

3. Present an offer that’s hard to refuse.

When drafting an offer, try to make it hard for the sponsor to say no. Anticipate their response before presenting the offer and include criteria, as well as positive leverage, that appeases any potential concerns. Staying positive and maintaining confidence in your offer helps you make a compelling case and positively influence the sponsor’s reaction.

4. Be respectful.

Your reputation is important for future business, so be sure to pay attention to how you approach your conversations with sponsors. Avoid using statements like “I want,” and replace them with phrases such as “We would both benefit from.” Keep discussions results-oriented and try not to misinterpret professional discussion as a reflection of your personal value. Respectful communication can go a long way with sponsors and generate a favorable impression regardless of negotiation outcomes.

5. Make your first offer high.

While you should strive to provide a “too-good-to-turn-down” offer right away, the first offer is rarely the final outcome. To allow yourself room to compromise, make your first offer relatively high. Be sure to track your communications in writing, so you can refer back to them throughout the negotiations and after the deal is made.

Learn More

There’s a lot more that can be learned about best practices for negotiating CTAs, budgets and beyond. To gain more insight on how to prepare for negotiations with sponsors, methods of determining your site’s leverage and tips to master the art of negotiation, read our free eBook “Negotiating a Stronger Clinical Trial Agreement and Budget.

Download the eBook: Negotiating a Stronger Clinical Trial Agreement & Budget

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