The Negotiator Magazine

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Get A Head Start In Negotiations

by Eric Garner

If you want to start negotiations in a winning position, then you need to prepare like a tiger. That means you must pay attention to 7 crucial areas.

1. Check Whether You’re In A Negotiating Situation. A negotiating situation exists when you are in any communication or problem-solving situation with others that can work out to your advantage. If there is no advantage to you, then don’t negotiate; you’ll only lose. As Sun Tzu, the author of “The Art of War”, said hundreds of years ago, “Engage only when it is in the interests of the state; cease when it is to its detriment. Do not move unless there are advantages to be won.”

2. Clarify Your Aims. Your overriding aim in any negotiation is to achieve the objectives you and your constituents have set. There are other aims, such as getting a good deal and improving your relationship with the other side. But getting what you want is tops. Always keep this aim firmly in your sights and don’t stop until you get it.

3. Gather Information. Once you know you’re in a negotiating situation, you need to gather information about the other side’s offer and use it to refine your own. Many negotiations come unstuck simply because one side or the other doesn’t listen, or check, or take the time to clarify exactly what the other side is offering, or indeed what they themselves are offering. This means that throughout a negotiation you should do tons of listening, clarifying and checking. And when it comes your turn to put over your case, you should use every skill you can muster to make sure they understand.

4. Negotiate With Your Own Side. It is rare to go into a negotiation only representing yourself. Usually you negotiate as a representative of others, your constituents. Part of your preparation for negotiations has to be spent getting the best mandate from your constituents. Aim to get the support you need; the trust you need; the resources you need; the understanding you need; and the freedom you need.

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May 2007