3 Steps to prepare negotiations

15. December 2023By Anita BleikerIn Negotiation

How to prepare for negotiations to master them effortlessly!

Are you someone who looks forward to negotiations, confident in your ability to negotiate well? Or do you belong to those who lie awake at night ahead of important negotiations, wishing that the next day would be over already? Regardless of which type of person you are, good preparation can change your life.

Step 1: Define Negotiation Goals

Firstly, it’s important to set your negotiation goal. Think carefully about what you want to achieve from the negotiation. What is important, what is not? What outcome is realistic? Prepare yourself for the possibility of multiple negotiation rounds. However, don’t be surprised if you achieve your goal after the first discussion.

An example from my experience: Recently, we were engaged for a negotiation where our client had set a financial goal. We needed to save an additional CHF 70,000 for them. So, we spent a lot of time devising an appropriate strategy. During the negotiation, we determined for the other party what it would cost them if the deal didn’t go through and proposed offering our client 50 % of those costs (CHF 120,000) as savings. Without discussion, they agreed to our proposal. Needless to say, we were all surprised. The feeling that more could have been possible was immediately set aside because the client’s set goal was more than achieved, and everyone was happy!
Conclusion: Prepare for the worst and feel grateful if you effortlessly reach your goal!

Step 2: Research on Negotiation Counterparts

Next, conduct research. In my opinion, this point is often underestimated. Find out who your negotiation partners are. What exactly does their company do? What are their goals? What is their vision? Who sits at the negotiation table? What are their personal goals, needs, priorities? What are their roles? How long have they been working for the company? Where and what have they studied? The better you prepare, the more control you’ll have in the negotiations.

In my job, I deal with different people daily. To anticipate what might happen in the negotiation, I do a lot of research beforehand. If I know that the owner will be alone at the negotiation table, I anticipate that the negotiations will probably be more pleasant than if the recently hired purchasing manager is also present. CFOs negotiate differently from Heads of Marketing or HR; more experienced individuals are usually more relaxed than younger ones trying to make a mark.

Conclusion: You can never know enough about your counterpart.

Step 3: Develop a Negotiation Strategy

Finally, you should develop a negotiation strategy. Consider whether you want to make the first offer or if it’s better to leave this to the other side. There are various theories about this, and from my perspective, there’s no right or wrong as it heavily depends on the specific situation. Some experts prefer to bring up as many points as possible to be able to concede on less important points during the negotiation. Other negotiators prefer to negotiate only a few points and to remain firm on those. Personally, I consider what suits the current negotiation situation best before each negotiation.

Always ask yourself what the strengths and weaknesses of your negotiation position are. Emphasize your strengths and develop solutions for the weaknesses. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the other party? When do you accept an offer immediately? When do negotiations fail? What are your alternatives if the deal doesn’t go through? What are the alternatives of the other side?

A client for whom we were searching for a new office in Zurich showed interest in renting a property in the city center. We were informed that two other potential interested parties were in the race. Our client was skeptical, assuming this was a standard statement from real estate agents. They pushed for intensive negotiations. We knew that due to the tight market situation, the selection of comparable properties was limited and we also had a good relationship with the property’s marketer. Fortunately, we were able to convince our client that there were indeed other serious interested parties and therefore focused on the key points in the negotiation. Not only could we sign the deal, but we also managed to make savings for our client. If we had spent a lot of time negotiating, the landlord would probably have proceeded with one of the other interested parties.

Conclusion: Always be clear about your position and adjust your strategy accordingly.

It’s important to approach negotiations with a curious and open mindset. Be flexible regarding your counterpart, the course of the negotiation, and even the outcome of the initial discussions. Control your emotions and actively contribute to a good atmosphere in the negotiations. Remain “friendly in tone, but firm in statement”.

Usually, there are multiple negotiation rounds. Therefore, it’s important to document the discussed points and send them to the participants after the conversation. There are different opinions about who should take minutes. Personally, I prefer to do this myself because it gives me control over what is noted and what is not. Of course, I let the other party add their comments.

Allocate enough time for the negotiation to avoid making wrong compromises due to time pressure.

In my opinion, that’s all it takes. Go into the negotiation, have a good time, and try to learn as much as you can from it!”