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4. Identify criteria your internal partners will use to evaluate the deal.

What are the standards that different internal parties will use to evaluate the agreement you craft with a supplier? Defect rate? On-time delivery? Volume discounts? Itís not enough to agree based on an arbitrary standard or, worse yet, "We did it this way last time." If you know how your internal partners will evaluate your external deal, you vastly increase your ability to gain their support for implementing it.

At the same time, clarify your alternatives to any agreement with the outside customer. Whatís you minimum possible agreement? Donít get trapped into becoming "the company that couldnít say No" by lack of internal awareness of when you would be better off without an agreement at this time. Internal consensus about your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) among your internal support network will prevent you from saying yes to deals that you and they will regret in the end. Your job is to ensure the external relationship is sustained so there can be a Yes in the future, even if the current option does not meet your internal criteria.

5. Generate alignment and consensus.

The amount of internal consensus required for effective implementation of an externally negotiated deal is proportionate to the number of individuals who will be affected by the deal itself. Also, the more you have negotiated with your internal partners for the deal, the more latitude and authority they will give you to create something externally.

6. Close the internal deal before you present the final agreement to the customer.

Be sure itís all documented. Internal alignment and commitment to implement external deals is crucial. Presenting a unified front improves the likelihood of the external deal, and offers you greater chance to create more value for your own company and for the other side.

Good negotiators prepare for their negotiations with clients and counterparts/adversaries. Highly effective negotiators pave the way for successful external negotiations with proactive, deal-focused internal negotiations. There is a web of internal relationships that must support external deals. The consensus built by integrating the interests of your internal partners into your external deals will enable you to create more value. Then, when the ink is dry, you will have the resources you need to implement the deal, your agreement will not be sabotaged, and your internal team will think and act as one in your ongoing relationships with your customers, suppliers and partners.

(The author would like to thank Ray Giese, Vice President, Strategic Accounts of AmerisourceBergen, for his valuable insight into the nature of internal negotiations as they relate to account managers.)

Richard Morse is a consultant for ThoughtBridge (www.thoughtbridge.net [site not found]), a consulting firm that mediates labor-management disputes, advises organizations on mergers and alliances, and provides negotiation training and facilitation services for corporate and non-profit clients. Mr. Morse has delivered negotiation training and consulting for strategic account managers, business development managers and regulatory negotiators in the health care field, and in the education sector he has facilitated conflict resolution and contract negotiation training for administration and union teams in school systems. Mr. Morse holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University and a Certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown University.

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