Notes on Negotiation: Start out with good game plan

Start out with good game plan
Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

I recently asked one of the best negotiators I know – a lawyer for over 50 years – for his single most critical pearl of negotiating wisdom.

This lawyer, who happens to be my 82-year-old Dad, surprised me by saying it was something he only really focused on relatively recently. What was it? Keep a laser-like focus on your goals.

Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that this pearl is much easier said than done. In fact, almost all the strategies I teach are easier said than done. But they are crucial to increasing your likelihood of achieving better results.

So, as we start the New Year and make resolutions – almost all of which are easier said than done – here are my Top Three Negotiation Resolutions.

Prepare a Strategic Plan for your next significant negotiation

Many years ago a longtime reader emailed me that my last column included a strategy I had written about several years before. Curious, I emailed him back asking him a few questions about himself and his negotiations.

I found out he was very experienced, read a lot about negotiation, and considered himself an expert negotiator. But he had never put together a strategic plan in advance of a significant negotiation. In effect, he understood the strategies but had never taken it to the next level and actually put those strategies into practice in a systematic, disciplined way.

There’s a big difference between knowing something and doing it.

So next time you have a significant negotiation, develop a strategic plan. It doesn’t have to be extensive. In fact, it’s better to start small. Perhaps just identify a) your goal, b) your Plan B (what you will do if you don’t do that deal), c) a fair standard justifying what you want (like a market value analysis), d) whether you want to make the first move, and e) when and where and what you want to discuss in the negotiation.

Then put that plan into practice. 

Develop a better Plan B

Leverage is not just about having a good Plan B if your Plan A doesn’t close. It’s about developing a better Plan B before you engage with your Plan A.

Top investment bankers in the mergers and acquisitions area know this well. Why? Because they get paid in part for bringing to the table their extensive contacts in various industries. Each contact is a potential Plan B (and C and D and E) for their seller clients.

Consider the Long-Term Relationship Impact

Many of us have a tendency to get so caught up in competitive negotiation dynamics that we lose sight of our goals, even if those goals include a long-term business relationship with our counterparts.

I once consulted on the sale of a company to a much bigger company that – for the sale to be super successful for everyone – required that the parties work together for several years after the deal closed. This possible relationship appropriately figured into every major strategic consideration in the negotiations.

In fact, my client could have pushed for more money upfront – but this aggressiveness would have come with a cost to the relationship. And the long-term value of the relationship was worth much more than the little extra he might have squeezed out of the buyer upfront.

Join me in making at least one of these your New Year’s Negotiation Resolutions. And put it into practice.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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