Making it big in the world of sports is usually all about landing sweet deals with the biggest and most lucrative sports teams. Plus, seizing well-paid endorsement deals can keep you in the black and make for a fruitful career. 

Whether you’re negotiating for yourself or you’re an agent acting on behalf of a sportsperson, here are the most valuable tips for negotiating solid contracts. 

Set straightforward goals

When sealing any deal, in sports or elsewhere, contract negotiation training teaches that the first step to setting yourself up for success is to have clear goals. When you set specific goals and targets, you’ll be more focused on your aims and can avoid being easily distracted by the other side.

Setting clear goals will also make it easier for you to figure out how much leeway you hold for making concessions. You can focus on some critical areas like: 

  • The basic salary. How much will be satisfactory for you? What percentage do you expect to stay fixed? 
  • Bonuses. How will the signing bonus be paid out? Which other performance bonuses will you be entitled to? 
  • Public appearances. How many are you comfortable with?
  • Autonomy. Will you accept free-agent control or no-trade provisions? 

While what you plan for isn’t always what you’ll get, focusing on clear targets will train your mind to stay on the right track. 

Do your homework

Negotiating without all the information can put you at a disadvantage. That’s why it’s essential to do as much research as possible.

Collect as much data as you can and read up on key past negotiations in your field of sport. Some important areas to consider include:

  • How do other contracts typically look?  
  • Who’s in control of each team?
  • Which clauses are usually included? 

When you know what to expect, there are fewer chances that you’ll be pulled into a deal that will bleed you dry. 

Plus, when you have the lowdown about the situation on the ground, you can set more realistic expectations. 

It’s also important to keep researching throughout the negotiation process. Continual research allows you to prepare your responses and adjust your strategy accordingly. Train yourself to resist being rushed into making concessions. Take time to precisely determine what the clauses mean from a legal standpoint and their implications on your future. 

Read between the lines 

To reach a consensus, you need to understand what the other person is saying, but hearing the “why” behind the words can be twice as important. That’s why when discussing the contract, listen out for true intentions to understand the reasoning that might be underpinning the spoken words. 

Some techniques to help you see through what people are saying include:

  • Spotting body language cues.
  • Watching out for facial expressions.
  • Listening for changes in tone or quality of voice.
  • Uncharacteristic changes in a number of disparate patterns.

When you unmask the other side’s intentions, you’ll be better placed to circle back and iron out kinks amicably. This is because you can figure out what’s most valuable to the other side and concede on those areas of the deal to get what’s most valuable to you.  

For instance, consider this scenario:

You detect that the team is facing some cash flow challenges. On your part, your main concern at this point is higher, longer-term payments that you can invest over time rather than a cash lump sum. So, you can agree for the team to pay your signing bonus in tranches over a set period instead of upfront. In exchange, you get a larger figure — a win for everybody. 

Keep an open mind

The best contract isn’t always defined by the dollar figure attached to it. Sometimes you can consider negotiating for better perks. You can go for fringe benefits that increase the value of the deal, like:

  • Access to top-of-the-range facilities for training and nutritional care.
  • Accident or disability benefits.
  • Life and health insurance.
  • Higher merchandising royalties.

In some cases, foregoing present financial gain for future deals might also be worthwhile. For instance, a lower amount to join a reputable team that can open the door for huge endorsements may be a viable option. Just remember to take note of the term of the contract so you don’t get stuck for too long in a lower-priced deal. 

Play for a win-win

As an athlete, you may be trained to have a winner-takes-all stance that helps you to succeed in competitions. However, in negotiations, it helps if both sides aim for a satisfactory result. So, keep the fight off the table and instead move towards seeking a common understanding. 

Maintain a friendly disposition and form a working relationship with the other side. It’s usually easier to come up with an agreement that makes everyone happy if the talks are calm. 

Winning the best contracts

Lay the groundwork for negotiating money-making sports deals by researching and setting clear goals. It’s also vital to read into the other side’s words and open yourself up to the possibility of non-monetary gains. Most important of all, remember that you win more if everyone wins.