Negotiation Preparation & Success – part 2

What’s involved in preparing then?

Preparing the issues; preparing what the priority of those issues are; looking for leverage, looking for places where you may have something that is not valuable to you but that the other side value a lot. The other key thing is predicting what you think the other side’s plan will be. What do they want? What do they value? because they mostly value what’s important to them. Getting yourself in their head is a really important part of negotiating.

How do you go about thinking about the other side and what they want?

You can download a complete negotiation planner here, where you systematically develop your thinking about what their objectives are. Who are the characters, the people? Who are the hard bargainers and who are more gentle in their approach? What are they like to deal with? Do I know anything, or enough about those people and their style, strengths and potential weaknesses. This also links back to making concessions reluctantly, even when you might be willing to give some things away quite happily if need be.

Qualities of the Best Negotiators

The best negotiators are professional, warm, friendly and assertive. They don’t give anything away without getting something in return. They talk about issues rather than getting into any emotional stuff. They’ll talk about their feelings but they’ll just be reported feelings.

An example of a reported feeling is one side might say “I feel really disappointed about this!” The other side can’t argue with this, or dispute that the feeling is real. They are more likely to say “Well there’s no reason for you to feel that way.” “Ah, but I do!”. “I wish you didn’t! How could we help?” One might equally say “I feel really pleased about this!” These reported feelings are powerful forms of influencing behaviour in a negotiation.

I think negotiating is based firmly around those principles of good and rigorous preparation.

If you’re working in teams you need to talk to the person you’re working with a lot.

Written preparation is also very important. We have a downloadable template here which incorporates thinking about the negotiating positions likely to be taken up by both sides. Theirs will normally, of course, be the opposite way around from yours!

So, the IDEAL, REALISTIC and FALLBACK model is very simple and clear in essence. Theirs is going to be a reversal of yours and somewhere in the middle is where both sides might expect to actually meet.

Ways of looking at the FALLBACK position

There are probably different ways of defining FALLBACK, not just of this being the worst position at which you will deal. It may also, however, be taken to include what you will do if your FALLBACK position is not met and you don’t get a deal. The FALLBACK position is then “Where else will I go?” You don’t want to walk away with nothing though you may appear to do so as far as the client or the potential customer is concerned.

You might work in a sector of the market where there is an accepted and established pricing structure. There’s an opportunity cost, to you, of accepting a price lower than FALLBACK. So you need to consider where else would you go to get the deal if not this deal? Where should you put your energy? You could also do the “keeping it warm routine” by suggesting a meeting at another time when developments affecting the conditions surrounding the deal may have changed. “Let’s meet again in say three months and see how the land lies then?”

The Value of Perseverance

On more than one occasion I failed to get a contract then went back in some months later, and won it. Sometimes the earlier negotiation was based on a different premise of some kind. I may have gone in with a mostly blind guess about the value of the contract the first time around. The second time I might say “Tell me what your budget is, how much you are willing to devote to this, and I’ll tell you what I can do for that much.”

Developing a major prospect can take a long time, and this is O.K.!

We are currently exploring the potential of making a value proposition to a major business in the leisure industry. In this case we think it’s important not to start negotiating too soon. In business negotiations, even if you’re hungry for the work, you try hard not to give that impression, as you want to develop a longer-term relationship of enduring and wide-ranging value to both sides.

It’s often best to allow plenty of time for such a relationship to be developed. If this month is not a good time to meet then how about next month, next quarter, next season and so on! This is an example of a FALLBACK behaviour or position of deliberately taking plenty of time to develop a worthwhile relationship and a mutual recognition of the needs that might be met for both sides. It also allows for mainly collaborative ideas and projects to be explored.

If nothing comes out of our contact with this organisation so far, then we need to plan what else we might do to get their commitment to an initial meeting to explore their potential or declared issues or needs. of needs. This could take place later at the end of their operational, or shortly before the start of the next.

We might, in the meantime, put together and send them a synopsis of what we might potentially do with them to help with reducing the difficulties of queue management and also to shorten waiting times for customers and other key issues and challenges they’ve already mentioned in past discussions and correspondence. There may be scope for collaborative projects in which both sides make a modest investment of time and money that proves to be of benefit of everyone, such as a multi-media project of some kind.


In part 3 of our series ‘Negotiation Preparation and Success’ we discuss the subtleties of communication in negotiation and why it may sometimes be wise to play the long-game for success.

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