Preparation is the bedrock of negotiation success. You cannot be overprepared for a negotiation. Whether you are involved in a business or personal negotiation, you must be thoroughly prepared to achieve your goals. Heck, you have to be well prepared just to know what your goals are. In any negotiation, you must prepare in three areas:
Each one of these aspects deserves your attention. Pay special attention to the first point because you are the most important person in the room.
The second item will change as your negotiations change. The third point deserves your lifelong attention.
Preparing yourself for a negotiation means knowing yourself and what you want out of life. This step takes some reflection and some planning. With adequate preparation, you boost your confidence and your performance during a negotiation. Know your strengths and weaknesses. For example:
This long-range thinking about your own life provides a context for every negotiation you have. After you create a vision of your future, create a plan that includes specific steps to turn your vision into reality. Your negotiations are likely to go astray if you don't prepare your personal, long-range game plan before entering the negotiating room.
You also have to prepare yourself for specific negotiating situations. The better you know your own needs, the more easily you can do this. For example, if you're not a morning person, don't let someone schedule a conference call for 7:30 in the morning.
Prepare for the other person
When you find out who you'll be sitting across from at the negotiating table, research that person. Knowing about the other person can help you build rapport, and you can walk into a room with the comfort and knowledge of having some background on your opponent. One of the most common instances where you should do some research on other person is before a job interview. Perhaps, you and your interviewer share a similar past experience. When you show that you know a fact or two about the other person from having done your research, you usually score points with the interviewer. In a negotiation, showing that you've prepared for the other person also serves as an ice-breaker before getting down to the nitty-gritty. Besides these obvious social benefits, knowledge about the other person lets you know what you're up against. Is this person reasonable? Is this person a bottom-line person, or is quality more important to him or her? Knowing what the other person values helps you emphasize that aspect of your proposal. It is also important to determine the person's level of authority. If the person is going to have to get approval from folks several rungs up the organizational ladder, you know you'd better provide some written materials or your proposal probably won't be repeated accurately.
Prepare about the marketplace
Research your industry. It's as simple as that. A car dealer knows best about cars. A chemist knows best about chemistry. An art dealer knows best about art. If you're going to negotiate in a world that isn't familiar to you, research it. Know the players, know whom to talk to, study the terminology. Do whatever it takes to be the smartest guy or gal in the room. You should definitely have your personal evaluation of everything being negotiated. You should also have a good idea of how the other party values whatever is being negotiated. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You can even ask such questions of the person you are negotiating with. Asking questions shows the other party that you're interested and willing to learn. Be a constant student of the industry or business in which you work. People who have a spent a lifetime with a company bring added value to the company simply because of all the information they have stored in their heads. The more you know about the business environment in general and your company in particular, the better off you are.