Opening The Negotiation

Many people stumble at the opening of their negotiation. This can set the stage for a less than optimum outcome. Here are just a few points I find helpful to keep in mind when I start a negotiation.

1. Don’t set your initial offer near your final objective. Give yourself room to negotiate. It doesn’t matter what you are negotiating – hours on a project, scope-of-work, specifications, price, who’s going to do what, etc. When you start any negotiation you must assume the other party will always put their maximum positions on the table first. Equally important is the fact that they probably will not disclose to you the minimum they are willing to accept. Don’t be shy about asking for everything you might want and more-use this as your starting point.

2. Give yourself enough time to negotiate. Before you start make sure you have allowed a realistic amount of time for the negotiation process to take place. Hours, weeks or months-it will frequently take longer than you expect. Rushing through the negotiation almost always works against you.

3. Don’t assume you know what the other party wants. It is far more prudent to assume that you do not know and then proceed to discover the realities of the situation by patient testing and questioning. If you proceed to negotiate a deal on the basis of your own untested estimate, you are making serious mistake.

4. Do not assume that your aspiration level is high enough. It is possible that your demands are too modest, or too easy to achieve. The other party may not know what they want or may have a set of values quite different from your own.

5. Finally, never accept the first offer. Many people do if the offer is as good as they expected or hoped to get. There are two good reasons not to accept: First, the other party is probably willing to make some concessions. Second, if you take the first offer, the other party is often left with the feeling that they were foolish for starting too low. In any case, the negotiator who takes the first offer too fast makes a mistake.