The Negotiator Magazine

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Step #2 Do Your Research and Have Multiple Options Ready

The best time to explore alternatives is not in a negotiation, it is before a negotiation. Think in terms of the compensation example from Step #1. If you had already done the research and identified that the company has a program in place for tuition reimbursement, then that option becomes instantly more viable than if it is an unknown possibility.

Justifying a purchase price for everything from a new car to a corporation becomes much easier if you can put specific examples in front of the person you are negotiating with. Do the research they don't have time for, so that you can make their decision process as easy as possible. Provide them with information that justifies why the decision you want them to make, is the right one.

Most people are looking for someone else to bring them actionable solutions. It isn't that they don't want to give benefits, it's that they don't have time to figure out how to give the benefits. Do yourself a favor and do all the legwork for the other person. If all they have to do is sign on the appropriate documentation, which you have already obtained and filled out for them, you are much more likely to get that signature.

This step is applicable to all types of negotiations. Whether you are trying to purchase a 400 unit apartment building or a single family home, do your research ahead of time and have your options ready when you come to the negotiating table. A filled out home warranty or an umbrella liability policy is much more likely to be put in as part of a deal, if all the other person has to do is sign the paperwork.

We participate in these tactics all the time, although usually from the receiving end of the assistance. For example when you pull up to a gasoline station, you engage in a mini-negotiation. By enabling customers to pay quickly and easily at the pump, the gas companies are negotiating with you to purchase a full tank of gas instead of buying as much gas as you have cash on hand. They have even waived the signature requirement as a way of making it easier for you to decide. This is a classic illustration of both how effective it is to think before, not during a negotiation, and the benefits of having the right options available.

Step #3 Ask What the Other Party Needs and Wants

Knowing what both parties need and want out of a negotiation opens up a world of possible ways to make that happen. A good philosophy to remember is that successful negotiations are not "Us against them," they are "Us and them."

Put everyone's needs and wants on the table and explore the best ways to solve all of them. People use a quick version of this method all the time on phone calls. Very early in most conversations someone will ask "What do you need?" or "What can I do for you?" Those questions quickly get all the needs and wants on the table. Then both people come to a quick consensus on what to do and when.

In larger negotiations this may take the form of a business owner who needs your product or service to grow their business, but can"t afford to pay a lump sum for it. Knowing that the lump sum payment is the obstacle, you can look for alternative ways to fund the deal so that they get the product or service, and you still make the sale.

If you know that a potential employer is unable to meet your compensation needs because he or she has to keep on budget for this year, but they will have a new and larger budget in four months, then that opens up all kinds of options for a deferred bonus, six month raise, four months of flex time, etc.

If that same potential employer has funds budgeted to hire a second person for a skill set that you also have, you could take on a mix of responsibilities and have some of those funds re-allocated to you.

Being a master negotiator requires taking the many skills that you hone and practice every day, and applying them in different contexts. Take these three steps and as you use them during the week, think about how you can apply them elsewhere. Then the next time you head into a big negotiation, you'll be ready to get exactly what you want.

About the Author:

John P. Strelecky is the international best selling author of “The Why Café” (Da Capo Press; April 2006); and a highly sought after inspirational speaker on; "How to Achieve Maximum Success with Minimal Effort." A graduate of Northwestern University’s MBA program, John has served as a business strategist for numerous Fortune 500 companies. Through his book, CDs, articles, and appearances on television and radio, he has positively impacted the lives of millions of people. John can be reached through his website at, or by calling 407-342-4181.

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September 2007