Negotiation – first do your homework


According to Marc Lockley, the author of ‘How to pay less for more’ – and co-creator of Zoomly’s ‘How to negotiate’ workshop – 70% of a negotiation is preparation. When I first heard this figure, to say it came as a surprise is an understatement; you could’ve heard my jaw drop. There was a qualifier however: 70% of a successful negotiation is preparation. Ah.

If we’re under-prepared for negotiating, the process can drag on and on. And on. The series of ‘if-this-then-that’ interactions can resemble a long series of volleys between tennis players. As tiredness sets in, errors can be made and tempers can fray.

To improve your chances of success, as well as the working relationship with the other party before, during and after the negotiation, it pays to do your homework first.

What do you know about who you’re negotiating with?

Let’s say you’re negotiating with another business, such as a service provider or a potential client. You can start with some basic fact-finding online, such as their website and social media feeds. Look up their company on Companies House and see who the directors are. Looking at reviews on Glassdoor can be revealing about what they’re like to work for; the comments about workplace culture may provide pointers about what they’re like to negotiate with. Ask contacts in your network if they know anything about the firm and its key people. What are they like to do business with? Bear in mind the other party will probably take these steps to find out more about you…

What do you want?

‘To win!’ doesn’t quite cover it, at least if that means ‘at any cost’. Key stakeholders need to discuss and agree what the goal is. They may have more than one ‘essential’ element in the desired deal – and there will be deal-breakers to consider as well. What’s your ‘walk away’ point?

What do they want?

Much of your preparation will be about finding out what constitutes a ‘win’ for the other party. It may simply be about money – if so, prepare to bargain hard. Typically, there are multiple criteria such as service levels, quality standards and payment terms. If there’s a Request for Proposal (RFP) it should cover these points; if not, you’ll need to craft questions to ask about the other party’s needs and wants. What do they value? What are their must-haves and nice-to-haves?

What do you know about the competition?

Who are your key competitors and what is each one of them known for? When Marc was working in B2B sales he kept up to date with what the competition was doing – new people, products, offers, and new business. How is what you offer different to your competitors?

Yes, this may seem basic – but no, not everyone does it. We can all too easily be distracted by new and shiny offers, seduced by our own brilliance. It’s homework time…


You may find this post useful: ’20 questions to help you negotiate (and one to avoid)’


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’

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Image credit: Shaking hands for successful dealing – @mustahtar-DepositPhotos

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