How to Organize an Agenda for a Difficult Negotiation

How to Organize an Agenda for a Difficult Negotiation

The biggest mistake novice negotiators make is failing to thoroughly prepare.  Preparation is a necessary part of any negotiation but is especially crucial when you know the discussion is going to be difficult.   When you haven’t taken the time to do your research, you are much more likely to leave value on the table. Furthermore, you risk losing credibility when you show up unprepared.  An agenda can help you gather all of the facts and information needed to prepare you position and prepare for the other party’s position. Here are a few things to consider when preparing an agenda for difficult negotiations.

Write down what the other party values.

This step is absolutely critical when preparing for a difficult negotiation.  You already know the other party is going to challenge you, so knowing what they value most allows you to decide how you plan to address those needs.  People are difficult negotiators because they have an end goal in mind and certain needs that have to be met. When you are aware of those needs and can offer solutions, the negotiation will go much smoother.

Write down what matters most to you.

You certainly want to try and address the needs of your counterpart, but you also have to be mindful of what is most important to you and your company.  Knowing what you value most prevents you from conceding on important issues when the conversation gets heated.

Decide on a strategy.

How do you plan on going about this negotiation?  You need to have a clear idea of how you plan to begin the conversation and keep it moving in the right direction.  Otherwise, things could end up way off track when the conversation gets heated. Do you plan on questioning the other party to find out what is motivating them?  Do you plan on offering something in exchange for something else? Are you planning to get an answer today or are you willing to give it a few days? You must have an idea of you strategy before you walk into the meeting.

Prepare questions you want to ask.

It can be helpful to jot down some questions that you want to ask the other party.  For example: What do they hope to achieve? When do they need to make a decision? What other options are they considering? What would prohibit them from making a decision?  Is this person the actual decision maker? It’s easy to get off track and lose our train of thought when discussions are difficult, so writing down them down can help you remember what to ask.

Prepare for the challenge.

If you already have a feeling that the negotiation isn’t going to be easy, you need to be prepared to handle different scenarios.  Think of the different possible outcomes of the negotiation and how you will react to each one of them. Preparing ahead of time will make you more confident in how to handle the challenge.

Build in a few concessions.

Difficult negotiators want to feel like they are getting the better end of the deal so you need to prepare a few concessions in advance.  What things are you willing to concede or give away to sweeten the deal? While you don’t come right out and offer these things, you have them in your back pocket to diffuse the situation and appease the other party if needed.

Determine your walk-away point.

Difficult negotiators can be stubborn and this can leave you with no choice but to walk away.  Determine your walk-away point prior to the negotiation so you know when to call things off. It’s easy to feel pressured to concede when you are dealing with difficult people but knowing your walk-away point gives you a clear idea of what you can and cannot accept.