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Preparing for a successful negotiation

Picture this.

You and 20 others are leaving a crowded conference room where you’ve spent the last three days negotiating a contract. Most of the people leaving this hazy, hot and humid atmosphere look worn out and disheveled.

Not you.

Clearly, you’ve got a major victory under your belt. And your secret was being prepared, including research, study and marshaling your resources.

Here’s a detailed look at preparing for a successful negotiation.

Ask yourself: “What exactly do I want from this negotiation?” And: “What am I willing to take away from it?”

Establish what you want and why. Make your goals clear.

Without clearly stated goals, you will have no clout. Clarity is a huge foundation to build on as you prepare to negotiate.

Think about the topics that will influence your bargaining.

Find out specifically what are the bargaining chips. Here are some possibilities: Money, installment plan, time, extras, return policy, value and service, quantity pricing. (Include cost and budget?)

Create an ideal objective – then compare all offers to your ideal. Then you can figure out which offer is acceptable.

You always need a Plan B. If the front door isn’t going to open, go around back.

Would the person you are negotiating with consider another option? You won’t know that unless you have one ready to use.

And, have a best alternative, or Plan C.

What are your other choices? What options can you walk away with and still be satisfied? Plan those ahead of time, too.

To be prepared, you must organize your materials – whether you’re negotiating for a car, buying a new house, reaching an agreement on a labor contract or negotiating with your teenager for use of the car.

Having data that support your position is incredibly important.

You also should have an agenda and share it with everybody at the negotiating table.

When you prepare your paperwork, make sure your information is detailed, with numbers and dates. Don’t walk in with a little yellow pad.

An important point about your paperwork: If for any reason you have to leave the negotiating room, don’t leave anything behind. People have wandering eyes, especially under stress. They may easily justify opening the file and taking a little peek, just to know where you’re coming from.

Take your paperwork with you if you need to leave the room. Always. No exceptions.

Attitude is another area where you need to be prepared.

This is all about your attitude going in. You must know deep down inside that you’re going to win.

Your team has done an excellent job. The opposing team is, in a sense, the enemy, and you need to fight. And you need to believe that you are going to win.

You won’t stop short of the objectives you laid out before you started your negotiations.

Look inside – is there anything keeping you from a winning attitude? Do you have misgivings? Are you afraid?

You need to deal with these feelings before you sit down at the negotiating table.

You’re going to study the facts thoroughly – and more than thoroughly.

You know you can talk yourself into anything if you try. This is what you have to do in this case. You are going to study the facts so thoroughly that you really believe 100 percent in your position.

You have the facts in concrete. Not only are they on paper, you’re also going to have them memorized at least well enough so that if you flip open your file, you won’t have to read it.

You’ll know it. You’ll know that with those facts, you can be successful.

You can’t always go into your negotiations by yourself.

You may need a little help from other people. People who know more about the specifics than you do.

An attorney, real estate agent, business broker or stockbroker might be able to help with background information on one of your vendors. You may want to take along a mediator or an arbitrator who can help move things along, because time is money.

And when it’s time to negotiate, give yourself a confidence-building self-talk.

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