Negotion - An Art Or Science?
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One might argue that because there is a structure to negotiation, it must be a science. However since there is no way of predicting the reaction to a particular situation and therefore you must remain flexible then it is more of an art. The fact is it is probably a blend of the two.

You may not be able to predict the reaction to a particular situation but you can at least put some 'what if' scenarios in place with some good planning.

A very important part of the structure of negotiation is indeed the planning phase - that part of the negotiation which does not take place in the actual negotiation. How many times do you go into a negotiation, saying to yourself or your colleague "now how are we going to play this today?" If you go into a negotiation without any preparation then you will probably end up with an unfavorable deal.

How much preparation should you do? A good rule of thumb is the more preparation you do the better the negotiation will go in your favor. A good parallel to this is a golfer - the more he or she practices the better they get. Gary Player was once asked in a news interview how much he relied on luck for his success to which he replied "you know the more I practice the luckier I get"

So important is the preparation phase that it is well worth documenting as much as you can prior to you actual meeting. The sort of things that should be documented are:

  • Your particular goals for the meeting
  • Questions you want to ask at the meeting - don't forget to listen for the answers.
  • Where do you have areas of flexibility
  • Can you probe to find out the other side's areas of flexibility.
  • What are the next steps.

Take for example the simple negotiation process of buying a new car. The car salesperson is taught to have no flexibility. If you try to haggle the price with him or her they will immediately run off to the high desk where sits the sales manager with some degree of flexibility. Clearly price is important both to you and them, but having achieved your price goal think about what else you can roll into the deal. Here are a few:

  • Free oil change for two years
  • Full tank of gas
  • Free subscription to satellite radio
  • Car valeted free at every service
  • Free updates to GPS map system
  • No mileage surcharge at the end of a lease

You will however have to write all these down prior to going to the car showroom so that you don't forget them.

OK so going back to the structure of negotiation understanding it and being able to practice it will obviously make you a better negotiator. There are many training courses available and this should be your next step in the negotiation process.


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