1. Don't be afraid to ask. Negotiators often fail to raise an issue because they don't think they have a chance of success. Don't be afraid. Not only do good negotiators ask for everything they want, they also make sure they don't end up with something they don't want. Be explicit about what you do and don't want.
2. Never negotiate against yourself. Once you make an offer, wait for a response before making another offer. By waiting, you avoid the possibility of rejecting your own offer and making further concessions in a revised offer. If you don't wait, it encourages the other side to hold off its response in hopes of getting a better offer, and you lose the opportunity to learn from the other side's response.
3. Get it in writing. As Samuel Goldwyn once said: "An oral agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on." When parties fail to live up to an agreement, written proof of the negotiators' intent is critical. First, it enables you to avoid "he said, she said" bickering, and helps those in charge of resolving the dispute know what was intended. Written agreements also are helpful if the original negotiators change jobs or aren't around anymore, and they are proof that you did your job correctly.
4. Prepare. To paraphrase an old cliche, the three most important things about aare preparation, preparation, and preparation. Learn as much as possible about the needs and wants of your organization--and about the needs and wants of the other side.
5. Determine the extent of the other side's authority. When negotiating with someone with authority, the goal is to reach agreement. It doesn't matter if the other side understands your position as long as they've agreed with it. But, when negotiating with someone without authority, you need to be sure that person not only agrees with your position, but also understands the rationale behind it well enough to convince someone else of its merits. Try to deal with deal-makers, when possible.
6. Know your bottom line. It is critical to understand what you want beforehand. That way, you'll know it's time to stop. I've seen lots of event planners continue negotiating beyond what they need and, as a result, end up with nothing. Knowing your bottom line also prevents you from agreeing to something that is unacceptable.
7. Establish a fall-back plan. Know your best alternative if you face an unsuccessful negotiation. Without a fall-back position, you are left with no alternative but to negotiate until a deal is reached, even if that agreement is unacceptable.
8. Listen to the other side. Good negotiators are good listeners and good communicators, not just good talkers. By listening, observing behavior and body language, and being attentive, you can learn things that will further your interests. You'll learn more asking good, open-minded questions than you will by cross-examining the other side. Be willing to brain- storm and explore options, and be empathetic. The person on the other side may have real problems that can affect the negotiations, such as a difficult boss. By showing some empathy, there's a better chance of working to address the issues. Think of the negotiation as a problem that both sides are working to solve together.
9. There is no substitute for discussion. Many people don't like to argue, and, therefore, sometimes fail to discuss important issues. Negotiations should not be arguments, but avoiding tough issues is not productive.
10. Avoid form. Form contracts merely drive negotiators toward a predetermined (by one side) result or take an elegant negotiation and reshape it into something ugly. The draft must be straightforward and 100 percent reflective of the negotiation. Finally, never sign anything that you have not read completely and understood fully.
This article was originally published in MeetingsNet in September 2012