What Should Be On Your Negotiation Checklist?

Negotiators who go into a negotiation well prepared both create and claim value
Negotiators who go into a negotiation well prepared both create and claim value
Image Credit: Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unplash

As negotiators, every time that we enter into a negotiation we hope to be able to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to walk away with a deal that we can live with. However, in order for that to happen we have to have taken the time to prepare for the negotiation. All too often this is exactly what we don’t do. When you haven’t done the necessary research, you are 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 side’s position, and what might happen when you get together. We do need to understand that business negotiations are highly unpredictable. It is possible that some of your prep work won’t turn out to be relevant, and new issues and problems will crop up and demand your attention. However, having a solid understanding of what’s at stake and where each side is coming from will help you do a better job of thinking on your feet.


  1. What do I want from this negotiation? You need to list both short-term and long-term goals related to the negotiation.
  2. Why is the other party willing to negotiate with me? What do I have that they need?
  3. What are my interests in the negotiation? How do they rank in importance?
  4. What is my aspiration point in this negotiation—the ambitious, but not outrageous, goal that I’d like to reach?

Dealing With Issues

  1. What is my best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA? What would I do if I’m not satisfied with the deal we negotiate or if we reach an impasse? What can I do to strengthen my BATNA?
  2. What does their BATNA mean to them in terms of their willingness to do a deal with me? Which side has more power to walk away?
  3. What is my reservation point—the indifference point between a deal and no deal?
  4. What do I think their reservation point and BATNA may be? What can I do to find out more?
  5. Is there a zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) between my reservation point and the other side’s? I need to realize that if there is no room for bargaining, then there’s no reason to negotiate. If this is the case then I may be able to add more issues to the discussion in order to keep things going.
  6. What potential ethical pitfalls need to be kept in mind during the negotiation?
  7. If we disagree about how the future plays out, would it be possible to explore a contingency contract—that is, stipulate what will happen if each side’s prediction comes true?


  1. Where and when should this negotiation take place?
  2. How long should these talks last? What deadlines are we facing?
  3. What are the other side’s interests? How important is each issue to them?
  4. What is my history with the other party? How might our past relationship affect the current talks?
  5. Are there any cultural differences that we should prepare for?
  6. How much will we be negotiating electronically? Have we prepared for the pros and cons of negotiating via email, teleconference, etc.?
  7. In what sequence should I approach various parties on the other side?
  8. What lessons can I apply from past negotiation experiences to improve my performance in this negotiation?


  1. Who’s in charge of the other side’s team? What are the patterns of influence and potential tensions? How could these internal dynamics affect talks?
  2. Who am I competing with for this deal? How do our relative advantages and disadvantages compare?
  3. Who should I include be on my negotiating team? Who should be our spokesperson? What specific responsibilities should each team member have?
  4. Do we need to involve any third parties such as agents, lawyers, mediators or interpreters?


  1. What are the strengths that I bring to this negotiation — values, skills, and assets?
  2. What are some of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities in this negotiation?
  3. What objective criteria, benchmarks, and precedents will support my preferred position?
  4. What authority have I been given to make firm commitments?
  5. Am I ready at this time to engage in interest-based bargaining? Am I prepared to try to create value by trading on differences in preferences, resources, forecasts, risk tolerance, and deadlines?
  6. Are there any parties not yet involved in the negotiation that might also value an agreement?
  7. Have I spent time practicing communicating my message to the other side? How are they likely to respond?
  8. Does the agenda that has been proposed make room for simultaneous discussion of multiple issues?

What All Of This Means For You

The good news about your next principled negotiation is that you can get the deal that you want. However, in order to make this happen you are going to have to take the time to prepare for the negotiation before it starts. This preparation starts with making sure that you have asked all of the right questions and that you’ve taken the time to get the answers that you need. Use this set of questions as a starting point the next time that you are preparing for a negotiation. You’ll be able to walk into your next negotiation knowing that you’re ready to get the deal that you’ve come looking for.

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

Question For You: How much time do you think that a negotiator should allocate for preparing for a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every time that we start a negotiation, we begin with the best of intentions. It really does not matter who we are negotiating with. The other side can be from down the road or from around the world, we simply want to reach a good deal with them. However, when the other side comes from another culture, problems can arise in our negotiations. Even with a common language and the best of intentions, negotiators from different cultures face unique challenges no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. What we need are solutions for avoiding intercultural barriers when preparing for negotiation between sides from different cultures.