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How To Prepare For A Negotiation

The ability to negotiate is critical for a business’ survival.

Yet most people (falsely!) believe that you’re either born a good negotiator… or you’re not.

While it’s true that some people seem to be naturally better at negotiations (I know quite a few toddlers who are on their way to becoming lawyers the minute they can talk!), anyone can learn to improve their negotiating skills. That’s why I creating a Negotiation Guide for our Business Class members.

In fact, sometimes getting to that win/win conclusion in a negotiation isn’t about skills at all: it’s about preparation.

The best negotiators know that “Half of the negotiation can be won before you step into the room.”

It absolutely pays to come to a negotiation prepared. Much of the dance of negotiating is about gathering and using information; so the more information you have before you ever begin, the better the position you will be in.

If you want to walk into your next negotiation in the strongest possible position, take a moment to download my Assets and Interests Worksheet to help you list out and visualize what you bring to the negotiating table — just one of the valuable resources you can use to become a master negotiator that will be included in the brand new Negotiating Destination Guide available only to Business Class members.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

It absolutely pays to do your research before you ever begin negotiating.

You probably know the advice for job seekers about researching the company before an interview, and the same advice applies to any negotiation. The more you know, the stronger your position will be going into the negotiation.

How important is it? In a research study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, researchers asked whether doing research on prices can influence the final price (in this case, of auto repairs). The answer: yes.

The researchers found that:

  • Car repair shops offered higher prices to callers who overestimated the price of the repair.
  • Women were quoted a higher price than men when either gender admitted they didn’t know what the service ought to cost.
  • Gender differences disappeared when callers mentioned what they expected to pay—even if it was inaccurate—for the repair.
  • Repair shops were more likely to offer a discount if asked to do so by a woman than by a man.

That tells us a lot about the importance of coming into a negotiation with some basic knowledge!

During the research phase of your negotiation, you also want to be sure to question your assumptions. Great negotiators are able to question their assumptions and remain more open to different possibilities. Dig deep! Is what they’re saying is their problem actually their problem? How can you find out?

Things you might want to research include:

  • What is the market price for the product/service?
  • What is the other party’s normal price / what do they normally pay for the same product/service?
  • How is their business doing?
  • What is most important to them? (Price, timing, customer retention, customer satisfaction, etc.)

Figuring Out What To Ask For

Another job seeking analogy here: People who research what they should ask for a salary before they go into a job interview are more confident when asking for or negotiating that salary — because they have more information to back it up.

So doing your research ahead of time about what you want to ask for is key whether you’re negotiating your rates for a client project or asking a vendor to lower theirs.

It’s also important to go into a negotiation with an idea of what you’re willing to accept if your first offer doesn’t fly.  If you decide before the negotiation what you’re willing to accept (and what you’re not willing to accept), you’re less likely to make a rash decision on the fly or get talked into something and regret it later.

I like to think of this as my BATNA: Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. That just means that if my plan A doesn’t work, this is what I’m still willing to accept.

Other than your first choice, what are all of the other pieces that you would like/you can offer? The more alternatives, the more options, the more bargaining power, the more likely you are to get a deal. The idea here is not to worry about getting a bigger slice of the pie, but rather to bake a bigger pie.

Figuring Out What To Offer (AKA identifying your assets)

No matter what you’re negotiating, you want to always offer before you ask.  

Think of this as you would your business: We all know that in marketing, it’s best to provide value first and then make an ask. The same is true in a negotiation. You always want to share your value and make an offer before you make an ask.

Even when negotiating something like your cell phone bill, you can open the conversation by saying, “I’d be willing to sign another 2 year contract if you can lock in my prices…” In this example, you’re offering to be a long-term customer in exchange for what you want.

Ask yourself: What are my assets in this situation? What do I have that the other party wants? Our Assets & Interests Worksheet will prompt you to list them out before you ever enter into negotiations.

Put together your game plan

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to put together your game plan for the negotiations.  

  1. What will you ask for? What will you offer?
  2. What does the other person want or need? How can you match your assets to their pain points?
  3. Prepare alternate options prior to negotiating to give yourself more power.

“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.” -Robert Estabrook

For something important, I would take the time to actually write out my negotiation game plan so that I feel extremely confident going into the conversation. That’s why I put together the Assets & Interests Worksheet for you as part of the new Business Class Negotiating Destination Guide — so that you can write out and visualize what you plan to bring to the negotiating table.

By clearly understanding what I want to ask for, what I want to offer, how my offer creates a win/win situation by addressing their pain points, and what I’m willing to accept if that offer doesn’t land gives me the power of preparedness in the negotiation.

The easiest way to take advantage of that power is to start with one of our Assets & Interests Worksheet, pulled directly from our new Business Class Negotiating Destination Guide that will help you visualize everything you need to walk into a negotiation prepared (click here to grab it for free).  The Negotiating Destination Guide has been designed to take you from negotiating novice to practiced pro with scripts, strategies, and simple tips and tricks that will take the fear and angst out of negotiating everything from your cell phone bill to your next client contract. The Assets & Interests worksheet is a sneak peek, pulled directly from this new Business Class Destination guide to help you feel more prepared and confident for your next negotiation. Click here to download it now.



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