Preparation NegotiationDuring the writing of my book on negotiation (“the Yes Book” on Random House) a number of people kindly sent in stories of their own experiences. I wasn’t able to use all of them in the book, but they are all too good to waste. Quite a few of the stories were on the subject of preparation – a subject which is all too often neglected in modern negotiation – the participants generally being too busy and stretched to consider ‘wasting’ time by preparing.

However, if you undercook your preparation you will end up with a raw deal. There are any number of topics to consider up-front from the make-up of the teams, to the negotiating atmosphere you want to create, from the type of person you are dealing with on the other side and their motivation, to opening and possible closing positions.

Here are a few of the insights on preparation sent in by contributors. If you have any stories on this or any other negotiating subject which you want to submit please send them via the form on the Contact page of this site, so that we can upload them to the blog.

Here’s Anny talking about negotiating for the attention of her audience as a speaker;

“My advice is – find out who your audience is by doing your research first. Google everything you can, get right down to the nitty gritty. I even look up potential client’s residences on Google maps, I see their Whois registration for their domains, I check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBB, Yelp. I want to know who I am dealing with…”

And here’s one from Tony who learned the hard way about preparation when negotiating for a Technology SME overseas. This early stage company had been successful in the UK and an opportunity opened up to achieve first mover advantage in an Eastern European market;

“Do your homework, thoroughly – before starting any discussions or negotiations make sure you know the background and reputation of whom you are dealing with. Do not rely on one source (as we did), always triangulate and test the consistency of the story…”

Here’s a good story from Matthew who runs a blog/gossip site for the legal fraternity on the importance of knowing who you are dealing with;

“Several years ago, we were trying to get a very well known, very stuffy firm on the site. Years of approaches had yielded nothing, but eventually the Head of HR called and said he’d take me out to lunch. What followed was essentially an interview, starting with him saying:

”Would you like wine with lunch?”
“Yes please.”
“By the glass or the bottle?”
“Well, that depends on how much you’ll get through.”
“I’d like your view on it, please.”
“Well you get a better selection by the bottle, and I’ll cheerfully drink half of one over a decent lunch.”
“What if I only want a glass?”
“Then feel free to order by the glass.” Etc.

It then graduated to picking over articles we’d written – “you mention X, my partners would strongly disagree with you. Are you right and they all wrong? Or would you care to reconsider your view?”

It was awful. After half an hour of this I weakly tried to change the subject and asked what he was doing over the weekend.

Royal Albert Hall Negotiation“Seeing Bostridge sing Schubert at the Wigmore Hall.”
“Really? I love Bostridge. Although Keenlyside is more to my taste.”
“Do you like lieder?”
“I sing it.”
“So do I. Let’s order a bottle.”

We spent much of the rest of afternoon discussing the relative merits of Kirchschlager and Roschman. They signed up to the site immediately and have been with us ever since.

I guess all I’ve learnt from this is that if you can find some common ground, however tangential, you’re away.”

In this case the common ground was found by accident – it’s even more effective if you can identify it in advance. Don’t skimp on preparation. You wouldn’t expect to win an Olympic Medal without putting in all the spadework first, and similarly there are no prizes in negotiation for just turning up.