Effective Steps in Planning a Negotiation

Are you about to go into a negotiation? Whether it’s discussing an employment package with a new employer or closing a deal with an existing supplier you’ll want to read these 5 steps to planning the best negotiation for you.

Step 1: Work Out What You Want

First, you need to work out what it is that you are actually after. What does the best possible outcome look like for you? Think about what you must get out of this negotiation and what you would like to have. Use a tool like iMindQ to create a list of everything you want. For example, if you are negotiating a job package for a job you could note down your desired salary, the car allowance you are after, the health package, childcare vouchers, whatever it is that you think you could get from the negotiation to start a new job.

Now rank your objectives (you can do this in iMindQ too). What’s the most important thing from your list of ‘must haves’? What would be a ‘win’ for you?

This will give you a good idea of how you should structure your negotiation, as you’ll be clear in your own mind about what you are going for.

Step 2: Establish What You’re Prepared to Give Up

Think about what concessions you are prepared to make. For example, maybe having a parking space at the office isn’t that important to you and you are prepared to trade that for a bit more flexibility with working hours. Or, if you are negotiating with a supplier, maybe you’d give up super fast delivery for a discount on the price. Concessions could be financial (you’ll accept an increased fee or a discount) or relate to throwing in something else of value.

You might have to have this discussion with your boss or your project sponsor to ensure that you know what they are prepared to sacrifice during the negotiation.

Having spent time already reviewing what you are prepared to trade on will make it easier to go into the negotiation because you already have ideas about how the conversation could go.

Step 3: Clarify Authority Limits

Are you authorized to do this negotiation? At what point will you not be authorized any longer?

Work out, and confirm with your manager, what authority you have for this discussion and at what point you’ll have to step away from the deal and let someone else carry on the negotiation.

negotiation limits

Of course, it’s far better to have a situation where you have full authority to take the negotiation through to its logical conclusion. If you have to back out halfway through then your supplier or whomever it is you are negotiating with will have to start from scratch with someone else. Not great for your company’s relationship with them.

Step 4: Do Your Homework

This can be quite a large and time-consuming step, but it’s definitely worth it.

Gather some information on the market value of similar deals. Research similar procurements either internally or externally using publicly available information. If it’s to do with negotiating terms for a new job, check out the salaries and packages they have offered people in the past through other job adverts or websites like Glassdoor.

The information you find out will help you identify what’s reasonable in your situation. It gives you a benchmark and helps you see what’s fair given the terms of your own situation. It assures you are going into the discussion not asking for something wildly inappropriate.

research and notes

You’ll also want to research the company or the individual you are negotiating with. Have they just reached the end of a quarter and are keen on sales which could help them reach a target? Have they just had a lot of people leave the team so they are keen to attract quality new starters? Or do they have a stable group of long-serving staff in a market where there are lots of candidates for every new job?

If you can, find out what they are authorized to approve.

Step 5: Decide On What Techniques to Use

Review what techniques would be useful in this negotiation. This involves planning a great location for the discussion: a noisy open office isn’t the best place to be asking for a pay increase. Think about what would work best for you: a neutral location like a coffee shop? Your offices instead of your supplier’s offices?

You can also think about how you are going to approach the conversations. Do you want to drop in something to give you an element of surprise? Are you going to hold back information until the end? Are you taking along a colleague and plan to play ‘good guy/not-so-good guy’? How long are you prepared to sit in silence while the other side mull over your ideas?

There is a range of tactics and techniques you can use for negotiating but it’s important to choose ones that feel right (and ethical) to you. Trying to adopt a forceful style when it’s not in your nature may lead to a satisfactory outcome but it won’t feel like you got there in a very good way, and you could probably have achieved the same objective using techniques that felt more natural and more true to yourself. (This is another area where it is worth using mind mapping tools to work out how you are going to approach a situation. List everything you could try and then identify the ones that sit best with your personal management style.)

And that’s all there is to it! Well, I know that negotiation is a huge topic, but these 5 steps are a good way to start thinking strategically about your next deal, however big or small it is. Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Author Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Get her suggestions for being more productive at work on her blog.