Negotiations … it’s all in the planning!

NegotiationLike almost everything in life… if you want to feel in control of the situation, you need to be prepared.

Inexperienced or naive negotiators believe that being prepared means ‘knowing what they want’ out of the negotiations, which generally implies that they have decided on terms that they would be happy with. They may even have given some thought to their worst case scenario, but that tends to be the extent of their negotiation strategies and preparations.

Knowing what you want from a negotiation is only a small part of what it takes to be prepared. The key to success is knowing how you are going to get what you want. Success comes from having effective negotiation strategies that convince the other side that what you want is actually fair and reasonable – or, at the very least, inevitable.

Preparation Tactics

When planning effective negotiation strategies, develop a list of desired objectives and imagine what the position would be for the other side. Are they likely to agree to your terms or not? If not, why not? What would they agree to? Taking a win-win approach that creates allies rather than enemies. Focus on long-term objectives and relationships.

Common Ground

Before going into a negotiation, establish what the common ground is between both parties. Write a paragraph describing what you want and don’t want from the transaction. Then, edit this description until it is focused and precise. When the objectives and rationales are crystal clear, it is more likely the process will achieve desired results. Know as much as possible what your counterpart wants and doesn’t want. Write a detailed description of what the other party is looking for and seeking to avoid. Knowing a counterpart’s goals, objectives and sought after results reveals commonalities that lead to creative solutions.

Possible Concessions

This means knowing what is absolutely necessary to achieve in consummating a successful bargain, and what terms, conditions and extras could be excluded. Every great negotiator knows there must be give and take on both sides for agreements that make sense.

Know the Alternatives

It is hard work to seriously analyze all the alternatives. In negotiating for a raw material purchase or a contract service, there are several questions to start with. What other suppliers could offer the same or similar products or services? Could you produce the item yourself? Is producing this product the best use of your resources? Could you talk with someone else at the same company if the relationship with the current rep is not working?


When preparing for negotiations, you should be able to identify your “best alternative to a negotiated agreement,” also known as BATNA. Your BATNA is your bottom line of how far you will concede and how much you are willing to allow your counterpart to walk away with. Your goal is to have the other side come back with an offer better than your BATNA. By preparing and knowing what your comfort level is, you will likely not walk away from the table unsatisfied with the outcome of the negotiation.

Empowered Counterparts

Before you start the negotiation, ensure that the other party is fully empowered to make binding commitments. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you believe you’ve struck a deal, only to discover that your agreement must be approved by someone higher in the chain of command. Most people will reveal their lack of authority only if asked directly if they need someone else’s consent. The human ego is typically fragile and to admit dependence is sometimes hard to do. The inclination is to personalize the situation. It is up to the negotiator to peel away the posturing and determine who the actual decision makers are.

Bottom Line

Negotiating is the art of convincing the other side that you should get what you want. Effective negotiation strategies mean knowing what you would settle for and how you are going to convince the other side to give it to you. Comprehensive negotiation strategies include prepared reactions to the strategy and tactics of the other side.

When you take the time to predict what the other side is likely to want and do and then integrate these predictions into your negotiation strategy, you are among those rare individuals who truly are prepared for negotiations.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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