Negotiation experts know that at least half the battle is preparing in advance for the actual meeting, because it allows us to gather the information we need, in order to develop an effective strategy, better understand our counterpart, anticipate possible surprises, and identify the points we can take advantage of.
According to one fundamental principle, in order for a negotiation to succeed, all parties must have something to gain: a negotiation is not a war, but a partnership. The first thing we need to do in the preparation phase, therefore, is to understand our counterpart’s interests, and come up with an offer that takes these into account, so that it will be harder for them to reject it. We should identify not only the interests strictly related to the negotiation, but also any indirect factors at play, for example, possible repercussions on the other side’s future career, or perhaps a simple desire to close negotiations before the holidays.
Secondly, we should acquire as much information as possible about our counterpart, finding out about any financial, legal, contractual, or corporate obligations they may be bound to uphold. It is also useful to talk to anyone who has had business relationships with them, in order to get an idea of their character and negotiating style.
Negotiations are often outsourced to intermediaries, such as lawyers, bankers, or subordinates. However, it is more effective to hold talks face-to-face with the decision-maker, so that we can try to influence the final outcome as much as possible. At the very least, we should invite the decision-maker to take part in the most crucial meetings, such as the first, and last, during which we will aim to agree on the key or outstanding issues.
Finally, in case our first offer is unsuccessful, we should always have an alternative proposal, or a plan B, which provides us with a safety net, so that we will not be tempted to agree to unfavourable terms and, above all, this helps us strengthen our position when pursuing our Plan A. So, we should always ask ourselves what we would do if our primary agreement were unsuccessful, and make sure that our Plan B is just as solid as our Plan A. For example, we should probably seriously consider taking the other party to court if they refuse to compensate us for any damages caused.