A lot of people picture a negotiation as a battle of wits — two opponents trying to outmatch each other from across a boardroom table.
But the truth is, you win or lose any negotiation long before you sit down at a table.
The actual negotiation is just about tactics and execution. You may have plenty of rhetorical skill, but without true preparation, you won’t be walking away from a negotiation with the outcome you want.
Luckily, preparing for a negotiation is actually one of the more interesting and fun forms of practice.
Almost everyone likes to practice negotiation because the skills you develop are universal. They translate just as well to buying a car, getting a better interest rate on a loan, or vying for a higher salary.
So here’s how to prepare yourself, and your team, for your next negotiation:
Step n°1 |
Decide how to value the situation.
Depending on what you’re negotiating for — and what you hope to gain — you’ll utilize different principles.
The most important thing you can do before a negotiation is figure out exactly what those principles are.
For example, if two kids are negotiating over a pizza, the principle involved is fairness. Each wants a certain amount of pizza, and they both want to get their fair share.
But if you’re walking into a car dealership to negotiate, you probably won’t be negotiating using the principle of fairness. You’ll be using economic principles and attempting to get a vehicle for the least possible cost. Your reference point will likely be any number of sites that identify the dealer “cost” and how much recent customers have actually paid for the car.
And principles can get fairly exotic. There are companies who pay for influencer Instagram posts based on “likes” as the valuation reference.
The principles used could be philosophical, moral, or economic.
But you have to know which one you’re using before you enter the negotiation — whether it’s for acquiring a slice of pizza, a new car, or a multinational corporation.
Step n°2 |
Rehearse with your entire team.
In movies and TV shows, a high-stakes negotiation always revolves around one pivotal moment. One side throws out a question or introduces a new point that changes everything.
Generally speaking, that’s not how negotiations in the business world work.
But there is a way to head off surprises at the table. Instead of thinking only about what points you’re going to make, get your team together ahead of time and do some role-playing.
Have team members throw out objections and difficult questions. Don’t let them go easy on you. Make it as real and as challenging as possible.
Practicing different scenarios ensures you and your team are calm under pressure and capable of thinking on your feet. And these practice sessions are always fun and memorable.
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