A Checklist For Preparing For Your Next Negotiation

To get the deal that you want, you need to go in prepared
To get the deal that you want, you need to go in prepared
Image Credit: Dai Fujihara

When it comes time for your next negotiation, will you do the most important thing to get ready? You know what I’m talking about – prepare! One of the biggest mistakes that negotiators make over and over again doesn’t have anything to do with their negotiation styles or negotiating techniques, instead it has to do with failing to thoroughly prepare. If you haven’t done the necessary analysis and research, then you are highly likely to leave value on the table and even to be taken advantage of by the other side. What you need is a negotiation preparation checklist that can help you avoid this scenario by helping you think through your position, the other party’s position, and what might happen when you get together. Here’s a starting point that you can use to develop your own checklist:

  1. What are my strengths—values, skills, and assets—in this negotiation?

  2. What do I want from this negotiation? List short-term and long-term goals and dreams related to the negotiation.

  3. What are my weaknesses and vulnerabilities in this negotiation?

  4. What lessons can I apply from past negotiations to improve my performance?

  5. Why is the other side negotiating with me? What do I have that they need?

  6. How long should talks last? What deadlines are we facing?

  7. What are my interests in the upcoming negotiation? How do they rank in importance?

  8. What is my best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA? That is, what option would I turn to if I’m not satisfied with the deal we negotiate or if we reach an impasse? How can I strengthen my BATNA?

  9. What is my reservation point—my indifference point between a deal and no deal?

  10. What is my aspiration point in the negotiation—the ambitious, but not outrageous, goal that I’d like to reach?

  11. What are the other side’s interests? How important might each issue be to them?

  12. What do I think their reservation point and BATNA may be? How can I find out more?

  13. What does their BATNA mean in terms of their willingness to do a deal with me? Who has more power to walk away?

  14. Is there a zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) between my reservation point and the other side’s? If there clearly is no room for bargaining, then there’s no reason to negotiate—but don’t give up until you’re sure. You may be able to add more issues to the discussion.

  15. What is my relationship history with the other party? How might our past relationship affect current talks?

  16. Are there cultural differences that we should prepare for?

  17. To what degree will we be negotiating electronically? Are we prepared for the pros and cons of negotiating via email, teleconference, etc.?

  18. In what order should I approach various parties on the other side?

  19. What is the hierarchy within the other side’s team? What are the patterns of influence and potential tensions? How might these internal dynamics affect talks?

  20. What potential ethical pitfalls should we keep in mind during the negotiation?

  21. Who are my competitors for this deal? How do our relative advantages and disadvantages compare?

  22. What objective benchmarks, criteria, and precedents will support my preferred position?

  23. Who should be on my negotiating team? Who should be our spokesperson? What specific responsibilities should each team member have?

  24. Do we need to involve any third parties (agents, lawyers, mediators, interpreters)?

  25. What authority do I have (or does our team have) to make firm commitments?

  26. Am I ready to engage in interest-based bargaining? Be prepared to try to create value by trading on differences in resources, preferences, forecasts, risk tolerance, and deadlines.

  27. If we disagree about how the future plays out, can we explore a contingency contract—that is, stipulate what will happen if each side’s prediction comes true?

  28. What parties not yet involved in the negotiation might also value an agreement?

  29. Have I practiced communicating my message to the other side? How are they likely to respond?

  30. Does the agenda make room for simultaneous discussion of multiple issues?

  31. Is an agreement likely to create net value for society? How can we reduce potential harm to outside parties?

What All Of This Means For You

The key to a successful principled negotiation is to go in prepared. What you need to do before you start your next negotiation is to make sure that you have a checklist prepared so that you can make sure that you will be prepared. Your checklist needs to cover all of the before, during, and after issues that it’s going to take in order to make sure that you are able to get the deal that you came for. Take the time to create a checklist that will work for your next negotiation and you’ll be able to be successful.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How many items do you think that a negotiation checklist should contain?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I think that we all realize that participating in a negotiation can be a very complex undertaking. However, if you want to make things even more complicated then all you have to do is involve yourself in a multiparty negotiation. Multiparty negotiations are actually fairly common. There are three issues that make multi­party negotiations more complex than two-party talks. These issues are (1) coalition formation, (2) process-management issues, and (3) the fluctuating nature of each party’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). As a negotiator, if you are able to prepare for these differences in negotiating strategy, you will be well positioned to thrive in your next multiparty negotiation.