You can be a master of technique, but enter a marathon or a boxing ring without adequate preparation and you're still going to end up losing painfully. The same is true of sitting down at the negotiating table, insisted Morphic Therapeutic CEO and veteran negotiator Praveen Tipirneni on Medium recently.
You can (and should) master valuable game-day tricks and techniques, he argues, but negotiations are actually generally won or lost in the weeks and days leading up to the parties meeting face to face. If you want to have a chance of succeeding at any negotiation, there are five essential things to do to prepare.
1. Decide how to value the situation.
What are you trying to get out of the deal? If you're not crystal clear on your objectives walking into the room, your chances of walking out of it with a win are close to zero.
"The most important thing you can do before a negotiation is figure out exactly what those principles are," explains Tipirneni. "For example, if two kids are negotiating over a pizza, the principle involved is fairness. Each wants a certain amount of pizza, and they both want to get their fair share. But if you're walking into a car dealership to negotiate, you probably won't be negotiating using the principle of fairness. You'll be using economic principles and attempting to get a vehicle for the least possible cost."
As my Inc.com colleague Carmine Gallo recently pointed out in reference to Mark Zuckerberg's high-stakes congressional testimony, the way to succeed under pressure is to prepare under pressure.
"Instead of thinking only about what points you're going to make, get your team together ahead of time and do some role-playing. Have team members throw out objections and difficult questions. Don't let them go easy on you. Make it as real and as challenging as possible," advises Tipirneni.
3. Make sure everyone knows their role.
If you're negotiating as a team, you need to know what everyone in the room is doing there. Rehearsal can help with this too. "Some people may not speak at all. They may just sit and observe the other side, taking notes on their body language, speech, and reactions," Tipirneni offers as an example. Make sure you're clear on your roles going in.
4. Study the opposition
Just as pro sports players watch hours of game tapes of their opponents, you should have as much knowledge as possible about the style, motivations, and interpersonal dynamics of the other side.
"Look to the past and use case studies to gather insight on what the opposition wants and what they may be willing to give up.... It's very simple to put together audio or video training on a subject," writes Tipirneni. You can even listen to these "oppo research" clips on your commute to work to save time, he suggests.
5. Write out a brief.
Writing makes implicit, foggy knowledge explicit and clear. Use that truth to your advantage when you're preparing for a negotiation. "You can never go wrong by writing down the key issues in a one-page brief," Tipirneni believes. "At minimum, you should write down the issues, the interests of the individual parties, what's at stake, and what each party is trying to get."