Negotiating can be extremely complicated. Establishing your ideal end goal should always be your first step. To be a skillful negotiator, it’s important to have clear negotiation priorities set before entering the conversation, or you could find yourself far from where you wanted to go.
First of all, decide on your negotiation priorities based on your interests, and think about how they affect the other side. You will likely have more than one interest and desired outcome, so make sure your interests are aligned.
Negotiations can get heated and your adrenaline might start pumping. As the conversation draws to an end, it can be easy to lose sight of your goals and make hasty decisions. If you haven’t established your priorities and your walk-away point, you may end up giving away too much, leading to an unsuccessful negotiation. However, this can be avoided. How? By establishing your priorities.
Long-term goals are very important, but it’s also important to consider the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Establishing small, short-term goals will keep you motivated, helping you arrive at your desired long-term goal. Creating short-term goals also creates a clear path and order to follow in order to reach your end goal. This will add more structure to negotiations and is strategic in helping you achieve what you’ve set out to do.
It is also a good idea to write down what you want to achieve. Having a visual representation of your negotiation priorities means you won’t lose track of where you’re going during heated negotiations.
Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. Understanding how much time you have, and what you need to do to make the most of it is essential. You probably won’t have time to complete everything on your bucket list. That’s why it’s necessary to arrange your negotiation priorities in order of importance.
Think about what you can say no to without collapsing constructive negotiations. When negotiating group work with teammates, for example, taking on a huge workload may seem like a productive idea, but you may end up with too much on your plate. By understanding what the most important tasks are, in order to reach your desired goals, you are more likely to leave a win-win negotiation feeling motivated with both parties able to achieve their goals.
Once you’ve got your negotiation priorities worked out, it’s time to figure out how to defend them. This will make sure you don’t get caught up, unable to make your argument.
Take a job interview for example. At the end of the interview, if all goes well, you may be offered the job. If you accept, you’re entering a contract with your employer. As with any contract, the process shouldn’t be rushed and should be negotiated to ensure you get the best terms possible. You’ll need to think about factors such as pay, working hours, and vacation days (among others). By preparing negotiation priorities beforehand, you will know what you want. By preparing solid defenses you will be more likely to get what you want.
Although it is likely that your “plan A” approach in the negotiation will get rejected, there’s no need to feel defeated. Proposals are denied, counter-arguments are made, and goals are sent back and forth—and back again. So be prepared to defend your case. If you’ve established your negotiation priorities beforehand, and you know how to defend them, you will be able to avoid scrambling for what to do next. This type of confidence will also show the counterparty that you know what you’re talking about and will allow them to trust you more freely. It can also sway them into accepting your terms.
Though you may be tempted to launch into active negotiations as quickly as possible to get the job done, not setting clear negotiation priorities can lead to unwelcome results. Resist the urge to jump in without a plan, and start by establishing clear negotiation priorities before you find yourself face-to-face with the counterparty. A favorable outcome will make it well worth your while.