Negotiating is a part of life. It doesn’t always have to involve money, but sometimes another party has what we want and we want to make a deal. Naturally, we want to make the best deal for ourselves that we can.
There are important factors to consider before you enter into negotiations with another party. Preparation is essential and can make the difference between coming out of a deal with excellent terms or leaving the negotiating table with no deal at all. This preparation involves knowing yourself and your own goals, knowing the other party and understanding the field in which you are negotiating.
Before you sit at the negotiator’s table, consider these factors and what they mean for you when it comes time to trying to convince the other party:
1. Have a goal. The goal of a negotiation is not merely to negotiate. Negotiation is a means to an end. What is that end for you? What is it you want? If you go into a negotiation without a firm sense of what it is you are after, you are unlikely to come out satisfied. Always clearly define your ideal outcome before you start to negotiate.
2. Form a plan. A plan is not just imagining how you want the process to go. A plan is about contingencies. You must picture the hypothetical scenarios, to expect the unexpected and figure out how best to react to each scenario. If you are prepared for all the likely responses to your entreaties, you can transition smoothly and confidently into a new tactic because you already prepared for it beforehand.
3. Know your disadvantages. You need to be honest with yourself. In what aspects of the talks is your position weak? If you are asking for a pay raise, for example, you may be hampered by the fact that you use a lot of sick days. Anticipating possible objections beforehand allows you to counter with your strengths at the right time.
4. Know what you are willing to part with. In a negotiation, each party sacrifices something in exchange for getting something else that they want. You have a goal, you know what you want to achieve with the bargaining. But do you know what you are willing to give up? Some things are off limits; have a firm idea of what this means for you before negotiating.
5. Know what the other party wants. You have a goal, but so does the other party. They want something if they are going to give up something else. This ties in with the previous point. What is the other party going to ask for, and are you willing to give that up? If so, under what conditions?
6. Know when to say when. Sometimes you must walk away. If you go to the negotiator’s table unwilling to just say, “No thank you,” you put yourself at a disadvantage. Being willing to walk away gives you a certain power in the proceedings, and the other person will sense that. After you walk away, you may find that they reopen the negotiations with you on terms that are more favorable to you.
7. Know your limits. How experienced are you as a negotiator? How experienced is the other party? Is it reasonable to think you will be able to walk in and smooth-talk the other side until they give you what you ask for? The more practice you get as a negotiator, the better idea you will have of what you can achieve and how far the other side is willing to bend to your ideas.
8. Gather background information. Don’t just study the other party. Learn about the field you are negotiating in. What are the typical salaries? What are the trends? What is hot and what is on its way out? No matter what it is that you want, external factors can play a decisive role in the outcome of any bargaining talks. Know which way the wind is blowing before you even set your goals for the process.
Preparing yourself along these lines will set you up for a strong negotiation. However, you still have to do the actual bargaining before you can achieve your goal. Even the best preparation is no cure for weak technique. After you have prepared, make sure you put your best foot forward when the time comes to go after what you seek.
9. Confidence. Confidence at the negotiating table gives you more bargaining power. If the other side senses hesitancy or uncertainty, they will become emboldened and demand more.
10. Self-Interest. There is nothing wrong with looking out for yourself. The other party is going to take care of their own interests. You need to take care of yours.
11. Objectivity. Don’t be carried along by undue optimism nor held back by pessimism. Make a realistic assessment of the situation before you start, and revisit your assessment at key points during the process.
12. Creativity. Price is not the only aspect of a negotiation. Is there something else you would be satisfied with if the other party cannot agree to a price? Are there other concessions you are willing to make if the other side asks for too much?
Finally, after you prepare yourself beforehand and enter the process with good technique, there are three maxims to keep in mind. These ideas can help put everything into perspective.
13. Everything is negotiable. It all depends on the price.
14. No one is going to give you their last dollar. If they are at the negotiating table, it’s because they are willing to bargain. Don’t let them tell you that they are down to their last dollar.
15. Ask for more to get more. The first step to getting more for yourself is to ask for it.
Negotiation is a delicate process. It is part willpower and part social agility. There are many factors to consider and if you come ill-prepared you are likely to be disappointed with the result. The more important the result of a negotiation is to you, the more time you should spend preparing for the process. It’s about getting the best deal for yourself that you can, and that means adequate preparation.