How to Prepare for a Difficult Negotiation

As much as you might want negotiations with customers to be a mutually beneficial process, the reality is that there are times when your counterpart might be an extremely tough negotiator.  Sometimes these negotiators are manipulative, demanding, and unafraid to employ harsh negotiating tactics. So, what do you do when you find yourself dealing with such a difficult negotiator?  Your chances of accomplishing a successful negotiation are slim if you haven’t come prepared. This hard hitting counterpart has prepared so it will put you at an extreme disadvantage if you walk in unequipped.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for a tough negotiation.

Gather Information Prior to the Negotiation

In order to negotiate a successful agreement, you need to have a clear idea of what the other party needs, what is motivating them, what their weaknesses are, and what their alternatives are.  This information is absolutely essential if you want to negotiate a successful deal. However, you can’t wait until you walk into the negotiation to ask these questions. Tough negotiators will intentionally withhold this information from you during the actual negotiation.  Therefore, it’s up to you to learn as much as you can about what your counterpart values before you step foot into the room with them.

Find Out What the Other Party Values

This is perhaps the most critical component of any negotiation.  It is absolutely imperative to find out what the other party values most.  This can be anything from price, a solution to a problem, or a flexible contract.  This is important because the secret to a successful negotiation is making your counterpart feel like their needs are being met.  You can never assume that you know what matters most to them. Instead, do your research and ask plenty of questions ahead of time.

Understand What Matters Most to You

Before entering into a negotiation you must be aware of what is most important to you and your organization.  Chances are what you value and what your counterpart value is different, allowing you to find a compromise that is beneficial to you both.  When you enter into a negotiation with a clear goal in mind, you know exactly what the terms need to be and you are in a position to make the first offer.  

Prepare for Time Pressure

Time pressure can be your biggest enemy in a negotiation.  When you have a tight deadline, there’s a good chance you will make unwanted concessions just to get the deal done.  You can avoid this sense of urgency by preparing for the negotiation ahead of time. You can also manage urgency by attaching your own specific terms to the agreement.  You could include a percentage increase, for example, that will expire by a certain date. This allows you to work the deadline pressure into a deal that is beneficial for you.  

Build Some Concessions into Your Negotiation

Tough negotiators want to feel like they have the upper hand and are getting the better end of the deal.  You can help make this happen by building some terms into the negotiation ahead of time that you know are expendable.  Essentially you are adding some unnecessary fat that can be “trimmed” away to make the other person feel like you are giving them a deal.  For example you might waive a set-up fee that was not really of utmost importance to you anyway. You are making the other party feel as though you are giving something up for their benefit.  

Know Your Walk Away Point

Some negotiators just aren’t willing to budge and there might be times when you just have to walk away from the deal.  Make sure you know what your walk away point is prior to entering the negotiation. This will prevent you from making a decision in the heat of the moment that you might regret.