9 Practical Steps to Prepare for Tough Negotiations

No matter what career you work in or business you run, at some point you will be involved in negotiations. Some negotiations are simple, others not so much!

Why should I give you what you want? 

Why shouldn’t you do what I say? 

Why won't you listen to what I need?!

To shine and succeed in negotiations, it all comes down to three words: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!

When you actually get in the room or on the phone and start the negotiations, everything flows based on how well you’ve prepared beforehand. Whether it’s negotiating a pay rise in your job, negotiating a deal or contract with a supplier or client, or negotiating a solution to a workplace meltdown, you need to prep before you take the floor!

Aaron and I have both held corporate career positions requiring regular negotiations with internal and external stakeholders. It’s something we’re both very familiar and confident with. So let us share with you our top 9 practical steps to support you in preparing for tough negotiations…

1. Be clear on what you want

To get what you want out of a negotiation, you need to be crystal clear on exactly what outcome you are seeking to achieve.

Write it down and break it into components.

  • What is the ultimate outcome?
  • What components make up that overall outcome?
  • What is the minimum result you’re willing to accept?

When doing this exercise, really challenge yourself to be clear on what outcomes are most important, what are non-negotiable must haves, and what results really aren't ‘die in the ditch’ deal breakers.

2. Understand where the other party is coming from

Any negotiation requires at least two parties. Your job is to know what both parties want, in order to prepare yourself to navigate and direct the negotiations.

You’ve just done the exercise to get clear on what you want. Now you need to consider where the other party is coming from. What do they want? If you’re not sure, put yourself in their shoes and consider what their ideal outcome is likely to be?

Spend a little time thinking about what factors are most important to them.

3. Articulate the gap

A negotiation only exists because there’s a gap between two parties. If you were both aligned wanting the same outcome, there would be no negotiation, there would simply be agreement.

On the basis that what you both want differs, your job now is to articulate the gap between what you want and what they want. Understand how far apart you are. What are the major differences of opinion? What are the crucial factors/resources at stake?

Write it down.

4. Find your common ground

Now that you know what the gap is, what keeps you apart, turn your attention to what your common ground is.

In order to bridge the gap, you need to find that common ground to create connection, relationship and a way to close the gap.

  • What do you both have in common?
  • What do you both agree upon?
  • What can you leverage as a basis for agreement?
  • What points in the negotiation can you easily come to a conclusion on to gain positive win win ground early on.

5. Be clear on what you’re willing to give away

The art of negotiation is being willing to give as well as take.

Both parties will have something to give that the other party needs and wants. Often times there are things you can give away in the negotiation that are of high value to the other side, but of little to no consequence to you. It’s like when you ask for a discount when buying a laptop or appliance, and the sales person offers you an extended warranty instead. That extended warranty is meant to appear as great value to you, with it being of little to no cost to them. They are using the art of giving as a way of appeasing you in the negotiations, in order to get away from providing a discount (what you want and what they’re not willing to give).

What are you willing to give away?

6. Be confident in your position

If you prepare properly before a negotiation, you will have greater confidence in yourself and in your position. Remind yourself that you may not get the full result you’re aiming for in the first instance, and that that’s no reason to have your confidence rocked.

Be prepared to be patient, to value what you have to offer, and to hold your ground.

7. Empathy for the other party

Negotiations do not go well when both parties come in with a war mind-set. You’re going into negotiations, not battle. Anyone who walks their career or business path with a genuine ‘win win’ mind-set, will triumph personally and professionally over time.

A “I’m going to win and you’re going to lose” approach is negative, cocky and is a choice you make which comes across very clearly in your body language, tone of voice and presentation.

Always enter any negotiation with a solutions mind-set, looking for the best outcome for both parties. This doesn’t prevent you from being confident, assertive, crystal clear and authoritative in directing the process and outcomes.

8. Have a plan

Plot out how you would ideally like the negotiations to go, so that you can direct it that way if possible.

Be clear on what your starting point is, that is your opening message, your opening point for discussion and what is most important to convey to the other party early on in the meeting.

Be aware of how long you are willing to wait if the negotiations hit a stalemate, before you’re willing to give something away, or before you will change approach.

9. Reminders to take in with you

Go into the negotiations remembering that the following things make a difference to how you feel during the negotiations and to your outcomes:

  • Be an active listener, because you pick up valuable information by listening properly.
  • If nervous during a negotiation, change your body posture – if on the phone, stand up. If sitting down, hold yourself upright and hold your head high.

Prepare for your negotiations and remember that practise makes perfect. It takes a little time and practise to perfect the art of negotiation and each opportunity you have to negotiate allows you to learn and expand your capabilities.

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