How To Be A Successful Negotiator: Learn To Set Objectives

If you want to get the deal that you desire, then you need to have objectives
If you want to get the deal that you desire, then you need to have objectives
Image Credit: Ritu Raj

When we enter into a negotiation we need to know what we would like to get out of the negotiation. What this means is that we need to have objectives. Our objectives can come from many different places – ourselves, our boss, or another stakeholder. What’s important is that our objectives will drive the type of deal that we want to get out of the negotiations. You always have to know what your objectives in a negotiation are…

How To Prepare For A Negotiation

The planning out of your objectives needs to start before any negotiating begins or any negotiation styles or negotiating techniques start getting used. What you are going to want to do is to spend some time thinking about what your interests and concerns are about the issues that will be negotiated. You need to be able to identify the things that are the most important to you. What you are going to be trying to do here is to use your understanding of what you’d like to be able to accomplish in order to create what is called a content goal. Three characteristics of this goal are that it needs to be precise, specific, and measurable. The purpose behind all of this work is to equip you with an answer to the question “what” that you’ll want to have answered by the final agreement that you are able to reach with the other side.

Not every negotiation is the same. There are many negotiations that we engage in that become complex very quickly. If you anticipate this happening in your next negotiation, then you are going to want to take the time to create multiple objectives. The bigger the impact of the results of a negotiation, the more people who are going to be affected by the deal that you reach with the other side. In this case, you need to take the time to get input from those who might be affected by the outcome of this negotiation. As we all know, things don’t always go the way that we’d like them to go during a negotiation. That’s why before a negotiation starts you should know what your fallback positions are and what potential trade-offs you’d be willing to make.

Something that all too often we don’t think of when we are setting our objectives for a negotiation is that we’d like them to be so-called “stretch objectives”. Think about what you could reasonably expect to get out of this negotiation and then think just a bit bigger. The reason for doing this is studies have shown that the aspirations of a negotiator have a great deal to do with the type of deal that he or she will eventually end up getting. The phrase “If you expect more, you get more” turns out to be true when we’re negotiating.

Three Different Types Of Objectives

All objectives are not created the same. Some of your objectives will be of more importance to you than others. What this means for you is that you are going to have to do some prioritizing of your objectives. Your most important objectives are referred to as your “must haves”. These objectives are the whole reason that you are participating in this negotiation in the first place. In the final deal that you are planning on reaching with the other side, these are the objectives that will have a big economic impact on what that deal ends up looking like.

The second group of objectives that you have are not as critically important as the first set. We refer to these objectives as being your “would likes”. We don’t consider any of these objectives to be so-called “deal breakers”. You feel as though you have more room in which to maneuver with the other side. These are the objectives that you’d consider making a concession to the other side on in order to secure one of your most important objectives.

The final category of objectives that you’ll have are the least valuable to you. We refer to them as being the “tradeables”. These objectives have a very small economic impact on you; however, they may be quite valuable to the other side of the table. What you are going to want to do with them is to use them to make concessions that will allow you to achieve an objective that is of higher value to you.

What All Of This Means For You

In order for your next principled negotiation to be a success, you need to make sure that you walk away from the table with the deal that you wanted. What this means is that you are going to have to go into the negotiation knowing what you want. This all comes down to having a clear set of objectives to guide you during your negotiations.

Before your next negotiation begins, you’re going to have to spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of the negotiations. If the results of the negotiation are going to affect a lot of people, you’ll need to be sure to gather input from them about what your objectives should be. Make sure that any objective that you set is just a little bit more than you would expect to achieve because this is how we become successful. Not all objectives are the same and you’ll have to divide yours up into must haves, would likes, and tradables.

There is a real sense of power that a negotiator can get when he or she walks into a negotiation with a good understanding of what they’d like to get out of the negotiations. Taking the time to identify what your objectives are and which ones are the most important to you are a key part of providing you with this feeling of power. Before your next negotiations start, map out your objectives and then go get the deal that you’ve always wanted!

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

Question For You: What do you think that you should do if during a negotiation it starts to look like you’re not going to be able to achieve your primary objective?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In some negotiating circles, the word “concession” is a dirty word. It means to give in to the other side, to agree to do something that they want you to do. Those negotiators who believe in using their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to achieve “winner takes all” don’t like this concept because they believe that it shows weakness on their part. Those of us who are a bit smarter realize that making concessions is what helps a negotiation move along and the secret to negotiating success is knowing when and how to make good concessions.