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Six Steps For Negotiation Preparation

Six Steps For Negotiation Preparation
by John Patrick Dolan

The most commonly overlooked aspect of negotiation is preparation. There is no more profitable expenditure of time than the time spent preparing to negotiate. There are several steps to take in this process.

First, know what you want and dont want. Most people have a general idea of what items they want or dont want in a deal. Unfortunately, general objectives tend to render general results ... leading to second guessing and dissatisfaction.

Instead, write a paragraph describing in detail what you want and dont want from the transaction. Then, edit this description until it is laser focused and precise. When the objective(s) and rationale(s) are crystal clear, it is more likely the process will achieve desired results.

Second, know what your counterpart wants and doesnt want. Write a detailed description of what the other party is looking for and seeking to avoid. This exercise tends to be a real stumper ... and eventually a real eye-opener. Knowing a counterparts goals, objectives and sought after results reveals commonalities that lead to creative solutions.

Third, identify possible concessions. This means knowing what is absolutely necessary to achieve in consummating a successful bargain, and what terms, conditions and extras could be excluded. Every great negotiator knows there must be give and take on both sides for agreements that make sense.

Next, know the alternatives. It is hard work to seriously analyze all the alternatives. In negotiating for a raw material purchase or a contract service, there are several questions to start with. What other suppliers could offer the same or similar products or services? Could you produce the item yourself? Is producing this product the best use of your resources? Could you talk with someone else at the same company if the relationship with the current rep is not working?

In comparing alternatives, remember to use the same questions and objectives to ensure accuracy in the comparison. Speaking the same language regarding the possibilities will reveal the strengths and contrasts among the alternatives.

Next, know the counterpart and subject matter. A lot of information is available about personality styles, body language and neuro-linguistic programming. Transactions take place between people ... and people view the same facts and appeals differently.

Subject matter is simple. There is no excuse for being ill informed, and lost credibility is rarely recovered.

Finally, rehearse. As the saying goes, the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. Its the same road to negotiation success. Attend swap meets and flea markets to sharpen negotiation skills. Once learned, its use it or lose it.

Most negotiators rarely, if ever, thoroughly prepare to negotiate. But this is the magic! Try this checklist before you negotiate. Your returns will improve dramatically.

John Patrick Dolan, the author of Negotiate Like the Pros, mastered his negotiation skills through his successful career as a trial lawyer. Through his firm LawTalk, Dolan trains other legal professionals on how to excel in this crucial skill and art. Information is available online at

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