Where Most People Drop the Ball in a Negotiation

I'm sure you've heard this before, but it bears repeating, time and again, especially if you're anything like me:

"If you want to "win," and truly get what you really need, want and expect when you negotiate . . . prepare, prepare, prepare.

See, I told you that you've heard that before. But are you doing it? Enough? Consistently?

Or do you consistently drop the ball when it comes to the preparation because you're busy, overwhelmed, over scheduled, or plagued, like me, by a touch of "adult-onset-of-ADHD."

I admit it, I have the best intentions, I really do. But as good as those intentions are, there are far too many times I let "good enough" derail my "very best" because, let's face it . . . preparation takes time.

Honestly, though, I stated taking this whole preparation thing much more seriously when someone pointed out to me that, on average, across industries, professional buyers (anyone whose job, or job in part, is to purchase stuff for their company) invest 3 hours of prep time for every hour they plan on negotiations. Wow! 3 to 1! I know I hadn't been investing that much time. Not even close.

I am glad, however, that I took this statistic to heart when I was preparing to negotiate my salary at the last employer I worked for before I started my company, Influence Seminars. I literally spent close to five hours preparing for what turned out to be a thirty-minute conversation. I prepared three pages of notes, a spreadsheet, and had printed copies of evidence I would use as proof and salary justification, should I need to.

It's a good thing I prepared for this conversation as thoroughly as I did. Ultimately it came down to a one-on-one negotiation with the CEO, who I was certain had tons more negotiation experience than I did. And he had ALL the leverage (or at least it seemed).

When all was said and done, and all the smoke had cleared, the CEO and I both emerged with a win. He, with a world-class Director of Training (who had absolutely no experience on that role, only mad skills as a trainer), and me, with a salary, benefits and perks that would rival any other person in that role, in the United States.

All because I was prepared. Over prepared!

So let me ask you . . . what is your time in preparation worth to you? What if you were absolutely "loaded for bear" the next time you stepped to the negotiations table? Can you put a number on it? If so, please don't forsake the preparation process ever again. You now know what is at stake.

So when you prepare, here's a checklist to help you do so effectively, efficiently and meticulously, so that you can get exactly what you need, want and expect:

1.    Know whom you're negotiating with. Spend time with the person if you can. That's the best way. If not, spend time researching them on social media, talking to people who have worked with them, or picking up the phone and having a conversation with them prior to the actual negotiation.

2. Add value to their business or life. Once you know who they are, what they like, what they think about, what they focus on, and what they value, help them get more of it. One of my mentors, John Maxwell says it best: "Influence is adding value to the lives and businesses of others. There's a story of a lady who landed a ten-minute interview with Warren Buffet. When she entered his office for that ten-minute interview, she entered carrying his favorite beverage. The first thing out of his mouth was, "young lady, you can have as much time as you need."

3. Get clear and specific with what you want, how much and why. Write it down. Going in with vague expectations in your head is a recipe for disaster and failure in negotiations. Know what you want, need and expect in advance. Then write it down to carry in with you.

4. Anticipate their need, wants and expectations. Just like you, there's a reason they're at the negotiations table. Find out what that may be. If you're not sure, just ask. If they won't tell you it's because you haven't yet built a relationship of trust. Or it's because you asked them first without sharing yours first.

5. Have a list of questions. Now how much time, effort and energy you invest into preparation, there are always going to be things you still don’t know. Write down questions that will help you uncover the answers during the conversation. The last thing you want is to be caught like a dear in the headlights, searching for the right question to ask.

I sincerely hope this article served you. If you'd like to learn more about how negotiate a win-win, every time you have an opportunity to negotiate, join me for one of our upcoming live seminars. I'd be honored to work with you and help you achieve the outcomes you deserve.