The 6 Things You Should Do Before Any Negotiation

June 14, 2017

The most important thing to do before negotiating with someone is to research and understand what's the worst deal you are willing to take – and what you'll do if you don't get it.

Negotiations can be stressful times, particularly for people who don’t negotiate often. And, making it tougher, generally people who don’t negotiate often are forced to negotiate with professional negotiators.

For example, when you buy a car, you usually have to negotiate. For you, it might be the first time you’ve negotiated in months, even years. For the salesperson, it’s probably the 11th negotiation they had that day.

There are plenty of times this happens in the professional world as well. Salary negotiations are never fun. Negotiating the price of a product is usually something done against a professional negotiator. Negotiating a contract can be particularly stressful, as there are so many moving parts.

It’s okay though, you can overcome those disadvantages. In her course on negotiation, Instructor Lisa Gates explains the six things you should do before any negotiation. By following them, even an inexperienced negotiator can reach an outcome that’ll work for them.

The six steps are:

1. Research, research, research.

The first and most important step, Gates said.

Whatever you are negotiating, you need to learn as much as you can about the current landscape. If it’s a sales deal, what have similar solutions been selling for? If it’s a salary negotiation, what are people with similar roles and backgrounds making?

The more information you have, the more likely you’ll meet your expectations.

2. Determine the absolute worst deal you’ll take – and what you’ll do if you don’t get it.

For every negotiation, you need to determine the worst deal you’d accept. Say you are negotiating the price of a car, for example. Perhaps the worst deal you'd take is $20,000 – you will not pay more than that for the car no matter what.

You also need to determine what you’ll do if you don’t make the deal. For the car example, it’s easy: if you don’t get the car for less than $20,000, you won’t buy the car. But say it’s a salary negotiation – if you don’t get the salary you want, are you going to quit? Or, at the very least, start aggressively searching for a new job?

This gives you leverage in the negotiation. Generally, the more drastic of a step you are legitimately willing to take if you don’t reach an agreement, the more pressure you put on the other party to give you what you are asking for.

3. Prioritize what’s most important to you and what you’d be willing to give up.

Whenever you negotiate, you need to make a list of what’s most important to you and what you’ll concede. Maybe when negotiating the price of a new software tool, you are willing to go a little higher on the price, but you need white glove support for the first six months.

From that list of priorities, you can go into the negotiation willing to concede certain items if need be. Remember though, whenever you concede something, be sure you get something in return. If not, you lay the ground to becoming a doormat, Gates said.

4. Do your best to determine your counterpart’s needs.

Remember, a negotiation is two-sided, meaning your counterpart has a list of priorities as well. It’s hard to know exactly what they are, but the more research you can do on them, the more likely you’ll be able to find out.

Maybe they don’t care too much about price, it’s more about getting a deal with your company and using your logo on their marketing. Or maybe they crave the stability of a two-year contract, so they are willing to give up more upfront for that commitment.

Whatever it is, the more you can learn what they want, the more likely you can negotiate what you want.

5. Find the common connections you share with your counterpart(s).

There’s likely people both you and your counterpart both know. Maybe they’ve previously done work with someone you know well or your CEO went to college with their CEO, whatever.

Most likely, you’ll be able to mention these connections at strategic parts of the negotiation, Gates said.

6. Identify who the stakeholders are.

Who are you ultimately negotiating against?

Sometimes it’s the person you are actually negotiating with; sometimes it’s someone else. For example, when buying a car you are partially negotiating with the salesperson. But you are also negotiating against the person who owns the dealership, as they obviously care what the car sells for and have to sign off on the price.

This should help you, particularly in regards to step four, where you are trying to understand what your counterpart's needs are. Often, there are multiple stakeholders with potentially competing interests. Knowing who the ultimate decision-maker is gives you a big advantage.

In her course on negotiation, Gates demonstrates the skills empowered communicators use to achieve mutual benefit at the negotiation table. Watch it here