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Negotiation Preparation: Don’t Do it Alone

By Chuck Doran and Stephen Frenkel

When purchasing real estate, experts say that the three most important items to consider for a successful purchase are location, location, location. Similarly, when negotiating we like to say the most important actions you can take to ensure success are preparation, preparation, preparation. Structured and disciplined negotiation preparation is the key to approaching negotiations with confidence and skill.

Most people go about the negotiation preparation process on their own. However, rarely can one person see all sides to a situation, consider all angles of a problem, develop all creative options for resolution, or realize all relevant objective standards on their own.

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For this reason, we go through a multi-step negotiation preparation process in our two-day negotiation workshops. In step one, participants prepare on their own or with a colleague, completing MWI’s Seven Element Prep Sheet in as much detail as possible. In step two, we gather everyone into larger groups to prepare together.

By the end of step two, attendees show significant improvement in their capacity to prepare for a negotiation effectively. Participants combine and build upon ideas from each other to create a more exhaustive list of their and the other side’s interests, options for mutual gain, and objective standards that determine whether an outcome is considered fair and acceptable by both sides. In MWI’s most recent Negotiation Skills Workshop, multiple participants commented on the benefit of sharing ideas and preparing alongside people with a different perspective.

Because of this, you should break down our “preparation, preparation, preparation” advice into three distinct phases of negotiation preparation:


Phase 1: Prepare on Your Own

Prepare as much as you can on your own. Take your time – as much as possible – and exhaust the entries for each element category (see sample negotiation preparation questions here). Take breaks and come back to the task. Ideas will come to you as you “sleep on it” and look at the world with your new “preparation lens.” The impact of your preparation will enhance with time and attention.


Phase 2: Prepare with a Friend

Share your preparation with a friend or colleague with similar contextual experience, and ask for their assistance. Is there anything you haven’t considered? Does he or she have any creative ideas? Can they help you think of additional alternatives or objective standards you haven’t yet considered?


Phase 3: Prepare with a Group

Bring the prep sheet to your management or team. Mimic the large group prep from the training. Commit to a brainstorm session and utilize the thought power of the group. Ask if they would help you role play so you can be comfortable in the negotiation itself.


Systematic and thorough negotiation preparation will help you achieve your ultimate goal, which can be defined as meeting the interests that were identified during your prep. Happy negotiating!

Improve Your Negotiation Skills – Complete MWI’s Negotiation Diagnostic Form

To improve your negotiation preparation process and improve your negotiation results, consider attending or organizing a negotiation skills workshop with MWI. You can also reach out to Chuck Doran at 617-895-4026 or cdoran@mwi.org to learn more about you might benefit from a negotiation skills workshop.

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