The Negotiator Magazine

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Dear Analytical,

There are no required steps to my knowledge which will not please you, but let me suggest some reasonable ones for your consideration. First and foremost, a part of your negotiation preparation process should include a call to the person or the team leader with whom you will be negotiating. This is a chance for you to clarify logistical issues, determine if any special accommodations are required for their team and establish a format for the negotiation sessions. Additionally, and most importantly, it is an opportunity for you to establish some rapport which will stand both of you in good stead as negotiations move along, As a part of that preliminary call, I would suggest that you invite your counterpart to work with you on the negotiation agenda. That, of course, is the vital first step in any negotiation. If you wait until the first session you can spend the entire meeting on this topic alone.

Before you make your call to your counterpart you should have done some careful planning for the call. What intelligence do you hope to obtain from the call? What can you discern about the style of your partner? What are their expectations? This should not be a casual conversation done "on the fly." You need your own agenda, well-thought-through in advance to make it productive for you. You may be quite surprised by the amount of useful information you may gain from this first call.

Setting the agenda as a combined work effort is both a courtesy and an important step forward towards managing and controlling the coming negotiation. This is also a time when you might agree with your negotiating partner about some of the rules of the meeting. It is also a time to express your preferences for the general operating climate of your sessions. This is a preliminary negotiation which can be decisive in the forthcoming session. You need a plan of action for this critical mini-negotiation.

Whether or not the pre-negotiation session has achieved the agenda and set the rules for the meeting, you need to take your time to build rapport and assess your counterparts early in the first negotiation session. Small-talk is in order, if your counter-parts welcome it. If they do not, of course, you will move quickly forward, having learned some important insights into your new partners' styles in the process.

The start-up activities in the negotiation meeting will parallel those of any other business meeting. Welcome; introductions; statement of group mission; and logistical details: the rest rooms are , we will take a break at , lunch will be served at , phone messages will be available at , etc.

Next, someone must begin the process by referencing the pre-agreed agenda and ground-rules or moving to creating the agenda (it need be formal) and an appropriate expectations statement by the parties. This done, the next step requires that someone introduces a common issue for discussion, problem-solving, agreement or statement of position. Hanging back and waiting for the other side to speak is a strategic decision. You should have a preference, not simply chance on this matter. Obviously, if no one speaks, someone must venture forth or see the negotiation die. If the other party does not or will not lead, you or someone designated on your team are elected and negotiations are underway.

Best wishes,
John Baker

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January 2005