10 Ways to Be Better Prepared for Your Next Negotiation

Have you ever left a negotiation feeling battered and bruised? Perhaps you felt like you never even got a chance to advocate for yourself. It’s not uncommon for professionals to get torn apart during a negotiation. Even those who are smart and knowledgeable in their industry can find themselves taking a beating. That’s because successful negotiations require more than brains and credentials. A successful negotiation requires preparation and practice. If you want to start your negotiation in a winning position, you have to prepare like a champion. Here are 10 ways you can better prepare for your next negotiation. 

1. Identify Your Goals

Before you begin preparations for a specific negotiation, you should know exactly what you hope to accomplish through negotiation. Do you want to maximize your short-term value? Are you working to establish long-term collaboration? Is your goal to sell a product or service to a new client? Make sure you know what you want going in, so you don’t settle for what you end up with. 

2. Do Your Research

You should never start negotiating without doing some research to learn more about the other parties involved. You need to gather as much information as you can about the other side so you can adjust your negotiation strategy accordingly. Try to find answers to some of the following questions:

  • What are your interests and theirs?
  • What is your position and what is theirs?
  • What possible problems do they have? How can you solve them?
  • What have they done to solve the problem in the past?
  • What is the best possible outcome for both parties?

3. Prepare a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a great tool for getting a realistic and balanced picture of where you stand in the negotiation process. You need to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will help you determine the best course of action and what kind of deal would be most realistic for you. This may not guarantee that you get the deal you want, but understanding where you stand can help you avoid settling for a lousy deal. 

4. List Pre-Meeting Questions

It pays to know as much as you can about the other side including who is their decision maker, what are their underlying interests, what is motivating them, and what their walk-away point is. You can find the answers to these questions by preparing a few pre-meeting questions to get to know your counterpart. Do as much listening and as little talking as you can, and let them know you are vested in their interest and seek to find the best solution. 

5. Make a List of Concessions

You should always anticipate concessions in any negotiation. However, rather than being hit with these concessions on the spot, you want to prepare for them in advance. Make a list of concessions you would be willing to make prior to negotiating. List them in order of importance so you don’t give up too much too soon. Likewise, make a list of what concessions you want in return, because you should never give anything up without getting something in return. 

6. Prepare Your BATNA

A BATNA is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement and it is the only way to be successful in negotiations. When you prepare an alternative deal in advance, you immediately give yourself the walkaway power. During the negotiation, your BATNA serves both as your trump card and your escape plan, should you need one. 

7. Build Rapport

Rapport is so important in negotiations. How can you possibly make someone feel comfortable during a discussion if you are cold, aggressive, or unfriendly? Take a few minutes to break the ice and get to know each other a little better. A little small talk can go a long way in building a trusting relationship. The other party will be more inclined to make a deal with someone they like, as opposed to someone who is strict and grumpy. 

8. Prepare to Listen

All too often negotiators spend so much time preparing what they plan to say, that they forget all about listening to the other person’s needs. How are you going to create the best possible solution if you don’t really understand the problem in the first place? Active listening is one of the most important skills to develop as a negotiator. Ask open-ended questions and be prepared to actually listen to their response. 

9. Design Your Deal

Working with other members of your team, put together a comprehensive list of options to consider when designing your deal. Keep working until you come up with numbers that everyone agrees upon. Also, make sure to consider your SWOT analysis when coming up with your deal.

10. Prepare Yourself Mentally

As your negotiation draws near, begin preparing yourself mentally for what lies ahead. Think about what you plan to say, rehearse it in your mind over and over, and start getting into the right frame of mind. A positive mindset can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful negotiation.