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Prepare for a Win: How to Get What You Want

All your life, you've been negotiating. You negotiate with your children to clean their rooms, with your spouse to buy groceries, and with your boss to take an afternoon off. You debate every day, and then spend more time planning for vital business discussions than you do actually negotiating. Here are a few steps to reduce preparations and improve outcomes.

What Do You Want?

First, know what you want and need out of negotiations. Needs are the minimum objectives you should come away with to feel successful, and they are your bottom line. For example, you might want a salary of $90,000, but your actual minimum is $80,000. Needs are an emotional matter, and if you don't meet them, you're very unlikely to go forward with the sale. Wants are more strategic and often involve achieving value for you or your company above and beyond your needs.

Steps to Prepare

Never go into a meeting without all the facts and details. If you're not thoroughly prepared, it's impossible to negotiate successfully. Break your objectives into sub-objectives, and then prioritize them. For example, if you're arranging a long-term agreement with a printer for your business and want to get the best possible price without sacrificing quality, prioritize your needs. Low prices are less important than speed of delivery, while consistent quality is more critical than fast turnaround times.

The Process

Create a process for your negotiations. The approach should be flexible enough to allow for dynamic discussions, but still have a sound structure that will enable both parties to move forward. If you enter discussions without a process, getting out of that meeting will be challenging until you discuss all issues.

Prep for All Potential Endings

Consider different scenarios to prepare for likely outcomes. You can apply "if, then" methods to different negotiation contexts. For example, if you don't receive a response from a potential employer within two days of your interview, you will call to ask how they're progressing. Even if you don't know what to say, it's better to call than to wait passively for a response.

Preparation Is Not the Same as Negotiation

Preparing for negotiations is not the same as negotiating, and preparation will enable you to have a more fruitful dialogue. Simply knowing more than the other party can give you leverage when it comes time.

Begin With a Draft

Your starting documents and first agreement are only drafts. Your aim is to make a compromise that moves the relationship forward. If you weigh your initial proposal down with clauses and conditions, you can't achieve your key objectives. You'll also create animosity, and that can damage or even destroy discussions before they begin.

When developing the draft, keep the language clear and the copy clean. Consider using a JPG to PDF converter for a universal document.

A Winning Strategy

Decide what you want and need, establish a plan that addresses all potential outcomes, and start with a draft agreement to get ahead with your next negotiation.

For more tips on negotiations, join your local chamber of commerce.