My negotiations students often hear me say “information is power”. The more information you have, the more likely you will get the outcome you desire. This is why successful negotiators spend so much time preparing for and asking questions in negotiations. There are three categories of information that are crucial:
Alternatives: Asses what you would do if you failed to reach agreement. Often referred to as your “BATNA” (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), this helps you determine the lowest possible value you would accept in a deal and prevents you from giving away too much. Anything better than your BATNA is better than an impasse. Importantly, asses their BATNA. This helps you determine how hard you can push before they might walk away and often gives you added confidence.
Interests: Interests are the underlying motivators, needs or “why’s” that drive a party’s position in a negotiation. While often ignored, they are very important to finding an agreement that works for both of you. By understanding both your and their interests, it will be easier to fashion solutions that meet both of your needs. You will likely need to ask probing questions to understand their interests, and it is important you disclose your own if you hope to work out an agreement collaboratively.
Priorities: Not only must a negotiator understand the interests at play, but the priority of those interests. Ask, what does the other party absolutely need to achieve in this negotiation? What are your own must-have priorities? If you can find options that satisfy both parties’ most important interests, you will likely come to an agreement that works best for both of you.
Daniel Duty is the CEO and founder of Conlego, a firm helping organizations become strategic and successful negotiators. To learn more about successful negotiations, attend one of the firm’s negotiation workshops by clicking here.