Preparing for Negotiation – Building a Plan

The most successful people are the ones that are prepared for every eventuality. As ThriveGlobal points out, “successful people understand how to prepare for great opportunities,” and “success is born when preparation meets opportunity.” We might not always be able to control what opportunities appear in our paths, but we can control how well we prepare for those opportunities. Your approach to contract negotiations should be the same. You can’t always predict what sort of benefits you can obtain through negotiation, but you can make preparations to ensure you are ready to take advantage of those benefits if they arise.

Still, there is some debate on how best to prepare for such an event. Research is key, but when people hear the term research, they often imagine long hours spent poring through books and websites and old financial reports. Not that there aren’t some uses for such information, but memorizing a list of facts isn’t the best approach. It’s time-consuming, and you end up taking in so many details that you might overlook something important.

The most useful way to get ready to enter negotiations is by building a smart strategy to guide you in your negotiation plan, ensuring that you’ll be prepared for every eventuality. For this sort of approach to be effective, you can’t simply come up with a list of every possible argument you might expect and draft a response to address it. The second you are surprised with an argument that is not on your list, you’ll find yourself at a complete loss. If you’re creative and willing to try something new, you could look over some unusual negotiation preparation tactics from Shapiro Negotiations Institute. Another solution is to focus on putting together a basic outline that can be easily applied to a variety of situations, including ones you’ve never thought of before. Adaptability is key.

In order to start creating the outline best suited for your needs, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are your objectives?

To defend yourself and your proposal, you need to have a clear, concise way of communicating what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. How many objectives do you have? Are they feasible? Consider them individually. How important are each of those objectives? Are there some that you might be willing to part with? Use your answers to determine your best case scenario, what you’d be willing to settle for, and what you would consider a dealbreaker.

2. What are your motivations?

This will provide guidance when discussing the above objectives and goals. Why is it so important that your proposal be accepted? What are the big picture implications of a successful negotiation?

3. What are the objectives of the other party?

You might not be able to find out the exact answer to this question, but you can formulate a general idea based on their mission, values, and previous dealings. This will help you decide on the most suitable way to appeal to them

4. What authority do you have to be handling this negotiation?

What authority does the other party have? The process will be much less frustrating if you have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t off-limits, so to speak. What sorts of decisions are able to make on the spot without anyone else’s approval? If you have a higher up you need to consult, can you touch base with them ahead of time and get their approval to offer certain alternatives during negotiations? The same goes for the other party. If you find you’ll be speaking to someone with very limited authority, are you able to reschedule the meeting with someone else?

5. What does the other party stand to gain?

What kind of benefits would motivate them to agree to your terms? Think about what the biggest overall advantage might be, and then list smaller concessions you might be willing to make to further persuade them to accept the deal.

6. What data do you have to support your position?

Do you have any numbers to prove that the benefits you can offer them aren’t just conjured up out of thin air? Unbiased sources of data are an excellent resource to convince the other party to accept your proposal. Make sure to arm yourself with relevant information ahead of time.

7. How do you plan to start the conversation?

You don’t need a script to negotiate a contract, but it doesn’t hurt to have a general idea of how you plan to organize your thoughts. According to the HoustonChronicle, “Plan to negotiate on the least-important issues first. Negotiating on the less-significant issues first can give you more time to focus on concessions that are more of value.”

8. Are you prepared to de-escalate the conversation if necessary?

De-escalation tactics are extremely useful in resolving any sort of conflict that might arise. Focus on developing your active listening skills, and avoid letting things get personal during negotiations. Keep in mind that taking extra time is another tool that is often overlooked. What does your timeline look like? Is it within your means to extend negotiations to a second meeting if necessary?

9. What will you do if you are unable to reach an agreement?

Per InTheBlack, “A critical part of this is knowing what you will do if negotiations fail.” Though not something we often like to think about, it’s an eventuality you need to prepare for. Even if you’re fairly certain that you’ll be able to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, determining your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, will give you more leverage during negotiations.

It might seem strange to go through a checklist like the one above to prepare for a contract negotiation, but ultimately it will provide better results. These questions should help you build a solid foundation, which you can then use as a basis for every point you make and every response you provide during the negotiation. By creating this outline, you are also able to determine what sort of methods and tactics are most applicable in your situation. We have previously included helpful guides on such techniques, as well as factors to consider after building your negotiation plan. Once you have the context of your answers to the above, you should have a much easier time dealing with those factors.


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