The negotiation process

Every time you negotiate, you have to make choices that affect whether you achieve a successful outcome for your business. To get the best outcomes, you need to understand the steps involved in the negotiation process.

While many negotiations are straightforward, some will be among the hardest challenges you face. Your success will depend on planning and preparation. Always approach negotiations with a clear set of strategies, messages and tactics that can guide you from planning to closing.

Planning your negotiation

No amount of preparation is too much in approaching complex or high-stakes negotiations. Plan both your approach to the subject under negotiation, and your tone and communication style.

In approaching the subject of your negotiations:

  • set your objectives clearly in your own mind (including your minimum acceptable outcome, your anticipated outcome and your ideal outcome)
  • determine what you'll do if the negotiation, or a particular outcome, fails
  • determine your needs, the needs of the other party and the reasons behind them
  • list, rank and value your issues (and then consider concessions you might make)
  • analyse the other party (including their objectives and the information they need)
  • conduct research and consult with colleagues and partners
  • rehearse the negotiation
  • write an agenda - discussion topics, participants, location and schedule.

In deciding your communication style, familiarise yourself with successful negotiating strategies. Arm yourself with a calm, confident tone and a set of considered responses and strategies to the tactics you anticipate.

Engaging with the other party during the negotiation

  • Introduce yourself and articulate the agenda. Demonstrate calm confidence.
  • Propose - make your first offer. The other party will also make proposals. You should rarely accept their first offer. Evidence suggests that people who take the first proposal are less satisfied and regret their haste.
  • Check your understanding of the other party´s proposal.
  • Remember your objectives.
  • Discuss concepts and ideas.
  • Consider appropriate compromises, then make and seek concessions.
  • Suggest alternative proposals and listen to offered suggestions.
  • Paraphrase others' suggestions to clarify and acknowledge proposals.
  • Give and take.

Closing the negotiation

Take a moment to revisit your objectives for the negotiation. Once you feel you are approaching an outcome that is acceptable to you:

  • look for closing signals; for example
    • fading counter-arguments
    • tired body language from the other party
    • negotiating positions converging
  • articulate agreements and concessions already made
  • make 'closing' statements; for example
    • 'That suggestion might work.'
    • 'Right. Where do I sign?'
  • get agreements in writing as soon as you can
  • follow up promptly on any commitments you have made.