Tips for Successful Clinical Trial Budget Negotiations

Ryan Monte
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Forte
November 19th, 2019

Negotiating a clinical trial budget can be a stressful, demanding task for both sites and sponsors. With trials consistently becoming more complex and funding becoming more scarce, proper study budget negotiation is vital to a successful trial for both parties.

Sponsors and Contract Research Organizations (CROs) are represented by talented, experienced negotiators dedicated to securing a favorable contract for their employer. To make sure your site is compensated fairly, it’s important to understand the study budget and your true direct and indirect costs for each component of the study. If you’ve researched tips for effective negotiations, you’ve likely encountered a wide array of advice designed to give you the upper hand. But one aspect typically stands out above all others: preparation.

A CTMS is a great resource to track and centralize your site’s costs, ideal for building your budget. Learn more about the OnCore Enterprise Research System.

 Thorough preparation ensures you leave negotiations with an agreement satisfying both your site and the sponsor/CRO. But preparing for budget negotiations involves more than just understanding your budget template and the protocol at hand. Here are a few tips to effectively prepare for negotiations.

1. Create a Budget Negotiation Checklist

To make sure you’re prepared for each step of the process, create a checklist to reference before engaging with the sponsor/CRO. This ensures you understand not just your budget, but also key aspects, including what you’re authorized to negotiate versus what needs to be escalated and how big of a priority this study is for your site. Make sure you have answers for as many of these items as possible before getting too far along in negotiations.

2. Control the Negotiating Environment

When discussing the budget via phone call, it’s especially important to you provide yourself with a time and format that allows you to prepare. One of your goals is to ensure your counterpart doesn’t dictate terms of the agreement, and step one is to ensure he or she doesn’t dictate the logistics of the negotiation itself. As any negotiator knows, approaching the process strategically and avoiding emotion will keep the playing field level, providing long-term benefits for all involved.

3. Know Where to be Flexible

Understanding your true costs and going into negotiations with solid, internally agreed-upon numbers will help in several areas. First, knowing which areas have room for negotiation will allow you to more easily and confidently compromise throughout the process. Second, remaining consistent with your numbers (and ideally providing objective facts to back them up) can gain credibility with your counterpart, who will be less likely to see your tactics as “salesmanship”. This not only helps in your current negotiation, but with future studies as well.

4. Understand the Sponsor/CRO Perspective

A key part of preparation is understanding the goals, style and constraints of the partner you’re negotiating with. As you work with specific sponsors and CROs, take notes on how they prefer to negotiate, in which areas they are typically flexible and what specific tactics have worked in the past. Add these notes into your checklist noted above. For example, if a sponsor has historically refused to compromise on a specific overhead rate, keep track of other areas where they are more flexible. Using historical data and experience will help you avoid the roadblocks frequently slowing down negotiations.

The tips above are just a few ways to help prepare you to start navigating your next budget. By going into each negotiation armed with these facts, you can put yourself and your site in a better position to not only secure the contract at hand, but also set yourself up for long-term success.

Learn more

To learn more about how your site can improve budget negotiations, download our eBook “Negotiating a Stronger Clinical Trial Agreement and Budget.” This free resource addresses key components to help you stand your ground and achieve a “win-win” agreement.