Seven strategic steps for effective negotiations

Philosopher Frances Bacon once compared all negotiations with sowing – you need to take into consideration many factors in sowing your seeds in order to get fruitful results. Indeed negotiations are part of our everyday life and everyday business, so it is fundamental to master negotiation skills. Here are seven essential steps for developing strategies for effective negotiations


Identifying your goals and objectives

Effectively identifying your goals and objectives is seemingly a simple step but many experts suggest it accounts for 50% of your success. The important part of this step – setting goals and objectives – has to take into consideration not only direct gains, profits and benefits. These are imperative, but equally vital are your business and life environment as well as the cultural perceptions and expectations of the people around you. Therefore after writing your goals (at least four), you should assess them both from the short- and long-term perspective and a level of pressure you are ready to use on the negotiation table by asking a question about the forthcoming negotiations: Is this a one-time engagement or the beginning of the long road of a collaboration process, which will grow in value over time? This will help you see a bigger picture and develop a better strategy!

Information is power!

Small or big negotiations, it doesn’t matter – information is the fuel of your success in moving towards your goals and objectives. Thus, it is important to prepare well by collecting and analyzing information using a classic MBA formula for business background research and problem solving: 5W or 5W1H (who, what, when, where, why and how). Modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide great tools for information gathering including general business data in databanks and information about counterparts on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.).

Prepare SWOTs

SWOT analysis is a simple yet very powerful tool in preparation for the negotiation process. It might range from a few minutes of work on a piece of paper for a simple case to a full-scale complex computer-supported assessment for high stake deals. It is especially useful if you run one SWOT assessing your own position, and run the second SWOT for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the other side of the table.

Choose negotiation tactics and strategy

Strategic vision of the negotiation process and your end-goals and objectives should be backed up with carefully thought-out and appropriate tactics. This stage of preparation allows you to lay out the sequence of tactical steps that will allow you to best position yourself during the actual negotiations. Experts even suggest developing an acceptable walk-away alternative in order not to get so desperate that you sign an abysmal deal.

List pre-meeting questions, options and plans

How often we do hear avoidable regrets expressed by our colleagues and other negotiators – “I forgot to ask this question!” or “I forgot to clarify this issue or option!” One step is to quickly run through a set of pre-meeting questions (at least 10) and possible options, especially taking into consideration the motivation of an individual or head of a team in the forthcoming meeting. Running the pre-meeting questions and scenarios is especially important so you can identify “red herrings” to offer (issues that have no value for you but might have value for the other side) and build your defense line and your breaking point.

Settle the agenda, sequence of negotiation steps and final achievable goals

Actual negotiations may start in a hundred different ways, depending on the location, size of the team, psychological expectations, expected results and the stakes on the table. However, all textbook examples of successful negotiations suggest that it is crucial to set up a clear and mutually agreed agenda right at the beginning, with a sequence of negotiation steps, and to clarify expected outcomes (e.g., signing a deal). Your set of pre-meeting questions and possible options in front of you (not to be shared with anyone) would be handy here!

Engage in negotiation process, bargaining with confidence and respect

The psychological dimension of negotiation meetings makes a surprisingly big impact on the negotiation process and outcomes, even though in the business setting we expect to see extremely rational people with rational approaches. Therefore, successful negotiation includes showing your cool-headed professionalism, developing well-structured communication procedures and engaging in the bargaining process with full confidence as well as full respect for the person or a team across the table.

Concluding remarks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional negotiator, entrepreneur, business salesperson or just a graduate student, it is important to establish your own style and approach to the negotiation process by creating your personal archive with a set of notes or databank about every successful negotiation.

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