So what’s the secret to conducting a successful negotiation? Is it taking enough time to plan? Is it picking the right place to hold the negotiations? Turns out that none of these are the right answer. Instead, if you want to be successful you need to do one simple thing: plan for everything to go wrong.
The Power Of A Good Plan (Not!)
Now I don’t want you to get me wrong here, but I’ve got some news for you that just might come as a surprise to you. Yes, it is important to plan out each of your negotiations. You want to take the time to do your homework, identify what the other side is really going to be looking for, and come up with a plan that you think is going to allow you to get what you want out of the negotiation.
Umm, this is where things get just a bit awkward – for you see, that plan is never going to work out. What none of us take into consideration (not like we can) is just exactly what the other side of the table is going to be doing during the negotiation. In a nutshell, they are going to be actively working against us. They are going to be trying to foil our every attempt to get an upper hand during the negotiation.
Ultimately what this means is that the carefully laid out plan that you had come up with before the negotiations started will very quickly turn into junk due to changes in circumstances. Dang it – why can’t the other side just do what you want them to do?
Your Defense Against Changes: Part 1
The fact that the other side of the table is going to be actively working against you really should come as no surprise to you. Hey, you’re basically doing the same thing to them! What you need here is a way to defend your carefully laid out plan against their crafty ways.
The concept of how you need to prepare to do battle to save your plan is actually pretty simple – the execution is another story. What you are going to want to do is to sit down with a colleague prior to the negotiation and do some role-playing.
You will, of course, want to play you. You’ll need your partner to play the other side of the table. What you want them to do is to frustrate your every move. You really want them to require you to do two things simultaneously: defend the positions that you are laying down and resist their clever arguments / positions.
You’re going to hate doing this. However, it really is the best way to discover where your arguments are weak and how you’re going to need to do a better job of resisting the other side’s proposals.
Your Defense Against Changes: Part 2
What’s a sales negotiator to do when the other side does something that makes their game plan completely moot? The worst thing that you can do is to continue to negotiate without a plan.
What you do need to do is to stop the proceedings. Call for a break. Ask for a timeout. Just do something to cause the negotiations to come to a halt. Give yourself some time to think about what’s just happened.
This is the time that you’re going to have use to come up with a new plan very quickly. The ability to adjust to changing negotiating circumstances and to adjust your strategy to meet the new reality is the mark of a great sales negotiator.
What All Of This Means For You
Planning is the right way to prepare for your next sales negotiation. However, professional negotiators will tell you that no matter how carefully you plan, you are going to discover that your plan will very quickly become out of date.
What you need to do is to work with a partner when you are preparing for a negotiation. That partner needs to attack your positions and offer their own positions that you need to find ways to push back against. It’s tough work but it will prepare you for the battle that lies ahead.
Remembering that you will need time during the negotiation to regroup and create new plans is critical. Remember, a sales negotiation is not a race to get to the end, but rather much more like a dance where how you conduct yourself during the negotiation will determine what your final score is.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that it is even worth it to create a plan if it’s just going to get tossed out the window early on?