If you want to start negotiations in a winning position, then you need to prepare like a tiger. That means you must pay attention to 7 crucial areas.
A negotiating situation exists when you are in any communication or problem-solving situation with others that can work out to your advantage. If there is no advantage to you, then don't negotiate; you'll only lose. As Sun Tzu, the author of "The Art of War", said hundreds of years ago, "Engage only when it is in the interests of the state; cease when it is to its detriment. Do not move unless there are advantages to be won."
Your overriding aim in any negotiation is to achieve the objectives you and your constituents have set. There are other aims, such as getting a good deal and improving your relationship with the other side. But getting what you want is tops. Always keep this aim firmly in your sights and don't stop until you get it.
Once you know you're in a negotiating situation, you need to gather information about the other side's offer and use it to refine your own. Many negotiations come unstuck simply because one side or the other doesn't listen, or check, or take the time to clarify exactly what the other side are offering, or indeed what they themselves are offering. This means that throughout a negotiation you should do tons of listening, clarifying and checking. And when it comes your turn to put over your case, you should use every skill you can muster to make sure they understand.
It is rare to go into a negotiation only representing yourself. Usually you negotiate as a representative of others, your constituents. Part of your preparation for negotiations has to be spent getting the best mandate from your constituents. Aim to get the support you need; the trust you need; the resources you need; the understanding you need; and the freedom you need.
A BATNA is your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement and is the only certain way to be successful in negotiations. By preparing for negotiations with one party by sounding out an alternative deal with another party, you get walkaway power. It means that, even if the alternative isn't quite what you want, you are still prepared to go there, if need be.
There are five questions to ask yourself when preparing the setting for a negotiation. They are: Who? (i.e. who is to take part and do what?); Where? (i.e. our place or theirs?); When? (i.e. what is the time scale?); Why? (i.e. what are we negotiating about?); and How? (i.e. how are we to present our case?).
The right attitude towards negotiations is the principal difference between successful and unsuccessful negotiators. Getting into the right frame of mind before you begin should be part of your preparation plan.
There is no guarantee that good preparation will lead to success in negotiations. But the chances are that poor preparation will lead to failure. Don't take that risk. Pull out all the stops to get a head start and you won't regret it.
Copyright Eric Garner, ManageTrainLearn.com
Eric Garner is Managing Director of ManageTrainLearn. He is a graduate of Cambridge University (England) and has years of experience as a manager, trainer, and learner. Visit http://www.managetrainlearn.com to download free training software and to sign up for the free MTL newsletter, "The Resourceful Trainer".