Five Key Questions Before You Negotiate

How successful are you at negotiating with yourself? At first, this may sound like an odd question to ask. Yet, we undertake dozens of negotiations with ourselves every day.

We negotiate with our kids, our pets and of course in our professional lives, in fact it seems we are always negotiating or weighing the odds about something or other.

Should I eat that cupcake? I just ran 5 miles and ate fruit for breakfast… so why not?

In our professional world, as an executive, employee, entrepreneur or job seeker, our negotiations become much more impactful because of how we look at them and approach them.  Although we often put greater emphasis on professional negotiations than those we have with ourselves, family, friends or pets, the same preparation and skill set apply..

Here are FIVE KEY questions to ask before you even start negotiations which will help to bring clarity, even when negotiating with yourself!

1. Do you have the right to compromise?

Compromise is an alternative to competing, yielding or problem solving.

If the people negotiating are “paper tigers”, with no right or authority to compromise, then you and your company may need to negotiate all over again later.

2.  Have you anticipated the other side’s strategy?

Now that you’ve prepared for your side of the negotiations you are ready to go, right?  Not so fast. If you have not considered what will be important to the other side, then you are not fully prepared.  If you are ready to address what your counterpart is likely to argue, you are ready to go.

In an ongoing business relationship, you may be aware of your counterpart’s priorities from prior negotiations.  You can fine-tune your preparation by looking at the pros and cons of a deal.

3.  Do you understand the pros and cons of each side?

We assess the pros and cons when making decisions every day.  Personally and professionally, we need to be prepared for the other side’s arguments before we enter negotiations.

If you are aware of problem areas, e.g., late deliveries or inconsistent service, then you should assess the pros and cons in advance.  Consider how you can maintain this relationship by being diplomatic in your negotiations and illustrating improvements in those areas.

You can access a T chart on an iPhone.

It is likely that the other side will come prepared to point out the flaws in your arguments.  If you are looking for a win-win, then you will need to know the other side’s flaws as well.  If not, they may be looking for a win-lose with you being the loser.

If this is an international deal, then you need to understand the customs and practice of the country you are visiting and how your own customs and practice may be viewed.

4. What will body language tell you?

Commanding body language is a matter of awareness, self-control and practice.

If you are attuned to body language, you will be able to interpret a great deal about what the other side is thinking and feeling as they give off nonverbal signals during the negotiations.

Keep in mind that your expression, hands, stance, posture and voice can make or break a deal by giving off signals of nervousness or doubt.

Research any cultural norms if you are negotiating in international markets (e.g., eye contact, handshake, handing out and writing on business cards).

Like any performance, rehearsing is time well spent.

5. What is your deal breaker?

Have you considered the button that must be pushed in order for you to walk away from the deal? Every organization needs to define matters that are non-negotiable or in, in fact, they simply cannot walk away from making a deal.

You need to know:

  • If you are the right person for the negotiation;
  • Consider your counterpart’s strategy;
  • Consider the pros and cons and illustrate improvements;
  • Be attuned to body language;
  • Know if there is a deal breaker allowing you to walk away without an agreement (e.g., allowing the matter to proceed to litigation).

SUMMARY:  Successful negotiations are a lifelong journey providing you with the opportunity to succeed in all of life’s endeavors.  Prepare and focus on your performance because you may only have one opportunity. If you read and digest the resource links above you’ll be well on your way to being able to start (and finish) a winning negotiation.

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