Negotiation Preparation – Key to Success

negotiation preparation

The importance of preparation

Over 80% of the negotiation outcome is commonly achieved in the pre-negotiation phase, and systematic preparation assists in achieving the outcome you seek. While preparation is often perceived to be less exciting, it is vital to success.

A systematic negotiation preparation process requires taking the time to consider the outcome you want, what the other party values and the alternatives available to you.

We highly recommend you consider the other party’s needs first. A comparison of the two, [for the Other Party] & [for your side], will more easily reveal the common ground between the negotiating parties and the best negotiation strategy to use.

A Systematic Framework

The ENS Systematic Framework segments your negotiation preparation into a series of logical process (how you are going to manage the negotiation) steps and content (what you are negotiating about) components.

Below we cover some of the steps from our systematic framework, discussed in detail during our Professional Negotiation + Influencing Workshop.

1. Understand the context of your negotiation and establish objectives.

Whilst this may sound obvious, have you and your team considered your aspirational outcome for this negotiation? What is your point of resistance and least acceptable offer? Have you considered an alternative solution, should you not achieve what you had set out to?

To achieve an optimal outcome, we recommend you set aside sufficient time to plan your objectives, establishes ranges and alternative solutions.

2. Determine Your Negotiation Strategy

Step 1: Prepare the Process Strategy.

Prepare systematically for HOW you will manage the negotiation process. To avoid sub-optimal outcomes resulting in post-negotiation ‘fire-fighting’, this includes being very clear about:

  • Understanding the unstated drivers and hidden agendas motivating the other party’s decision-making
  • Choosing your negotiation behaviour, being flexible
  • Controlling the emotional environment, time, place, questions to ask, answers to give, careful listening, body language
  • Assessing power, identifying and using tactics and counter-tactics
  • Preparing how to break deadlocks and how to make concessions
  • Determining how to sequence the negotiation through phases, and most importantly, rehearsing options with constructive critiquing

Step 2: Prepare the Content Strategy

  • Prepare systematically for WHAT you are negotiating about, the negotiation substance. This includes being very disciplined about:
  • Understanding the subject matter, negotiation context, history, parties, relationships, commitment, common purpose
  • Establishing objectives, developing negotiation ranges, reviewing alternatives
  • Testing assumptions, researching facts
  • Defining issues, identifying options
  • Deciding positions, planning concessions

3. Understand Your Negotiation Style

Our underlying beliefs and personal negotiating philosophy, are often reflected in our negotiation style (manner/behaviour). While negotiation behaviours take many forms, they are all represented as a range along a spectrum. We label this spectrum from highly competitive to highly cooperative. At one end, negotiators may be characterised as hostile, aggressive or dominating and at the opposite end is friendly, compliant, and accommodating.

Everyone has a preferred or reflex negotiation style, and there is no correct negotiating style. A skilled negotiator will know their reflex style and consciously adopt the most appropriate style to meet the specific influencing circumstances, negotiation strategy and outcome they seek to achieve.

4. Reconsider needs and motivation

The link between preparing the process and preparing the content of the negotiation is to reconsider the needs. These needs will be at 2 levels: the needs (objectives) of the organisation, which are more likely to be overt and stated, and the personal needs of the individuals which may be hidden and understated.

A skilled negotiator will ensure they’ve invested the time to fully understand the needs of the other party and understand why they want to complete this deal. Asking open-ended questions about competitors, or about why they want to work with your organisation, or what’s in it for them in combining forces, building on the other party’s motivation.

5. Identify and use tactics

Negotiations are greatly influenced by perceptions of power, and perceptions can be purposefully modified using tactics before, during and after negotiation events.

One of the secrets of skilled negotiators is to identify a tactic the other party is using. This helps remove the power of the tactic and enable them to select an appropriate counter-tactic. Power is a perception, and perceived power can provide control during negotiations.

Preparation is critical for successful negotiations. Ensure you prepare the negotiation process and content, and select your strategy. ENS have developed a Systematic Framework for successful negotiations, these steps are covered in extensive detail during our Professional Negotiation + Influencing Workshop – for more detail click here.

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ENS Team