Undoubtedly, one of the keys to the success of a negotiation is good preparation.
Some experts say that 90% of negotiation is preparation and 10% is inspiration. This may seem a bit extreme, but if you want to rely on 90% inspiration, you have to be very, very inspired.
So let’s briefly present what constitutes good preparation in negotiation.
Good negotiation preparation involves respecting and preparing on three different levels. The first level is what we’ll call “The Author’s Preparation,” the second level is what we’ll mention as “The Actor’s Preparation,” and the third level is “The Human Being’s Preparation.”
Let’s go into a bit more detail, because if you want to be successful in your negotiations, you must prepare as best as possible.
First Level of Preparation: The Author
In this sense and at this level of preparation, you have to be an expert in the subject you are negotiating. You have to be an expert in the history you are presenting. Who are the characters in this story? What has happened? You have to be an expert in the different elements that make up the needs and challenges of each of those actors in the negotiation. In a way, you should be able to write a book on the negotiation. What happened before? What’s happening now? What will happen? What do the parties involved want? What don’t they want? What is their relationship?
And all of this requires work, often intellectual, often analytical, preparatory, and reflective… that one can do alone or in a team. Depending on the situation, if it is a group negotiation, it is best to do this preparatory work with the other members of the negotiating group.
So the first level of preparation is the author: being able to write a book about the negotiation that will take place later.
Second Level of Preparation: The Actor
While it is true that we are not acting when we negotiate, or at least it is not desirable, it is true that we are using our voice, our non-verbal language, we are dressed in a certain way, and we use, why not say it, a decoration, whether remote or a meeting space.
Therefore, the second level of preparation is this level of the actor that we mentioned: how am I going to dress? In what setting am I going to act? What verbal and non-verbal language am I going to use? And in that sense, we recommend that in this phase of preparation, it is very important to, why not, stand in front of a camera or a mirror, and prepare with colleagues, for example, the key questions that the other party might ask me.
How am I going to respond to have the necessary assertiveness, to answer all those questions that can be asked of me with strength and conviction? Therefore, remember… The first level of preparation is the author, being able to write a book about the negotiation that will take place later. The second level of preparation is the actor: how am I going to convince the other party with my communication, my verbal and non-verbal language, that I want to sell my ideas, propose my interests to the other party.
Third level of preparation: the human being
I suppose you will agree with me, and it will have happened to you in some negotiation that you finish negotiating and you are physically exhausted. Why? I give a reason. And that is negotiating is not only an intellectual activity, it is a physical activity. You have to observe, listen, maintain good posture. And that is not to mention all the emotion and stress that we can have in a negotiation.
Therefore, on many occasions, we end an hour or two of negotiation physically exhausted. So, what is this third level of preparation that we mentioned? It would be the preparation of the human being. And what does this preparation consist of? Four premises that must be respected before any negotiation. First, sleep well. Second, eat well. Third, do some physical exercise. And fourth, avoid toxic people.
Allow me to go into a little detail about these four different acts of individual preparation, because they seem fundamental to me. From my experience, I have seen many disappointments in negotiations due to not having this personal preparation of the negotiator.
- The first point, as I said, is to sleep well. What happens when someone does not sleep well? Remember any situation you have been in, if the day before you slept little or did not sleep well, very probably you are tired. You are more emotional. You pay little attention to important details and therefore, in negotiation, you make more mistakes… and have less success. Therefore, the first advice is before an important negotiation, I go to bed early and sleep the necessary hours to be rested.
- The second advice on this third level of physical preparation of the negotiator is to eat well. Obviously, if I eat too much, I will not be in good condition to negotiate. Therefore, having a balanced diet, eating small amounts, but enough to have energy is something that great negotiators know and control very, very effectively.
- The third level of preparation is a certain physical exercise. And here I am not saying that one has to run a marathon every time one wants to negotiate or has to negotiate. But yes, why not do a little cardio, a little yoga training, a little physical activity that allows us to relax the body and arrive at the moment of negotiation in better conditions.
- Lastly, the fourth point on this more personal preparation of the human being is to avoid toxic people. Toxic people exist in any company, in any organization. Aggressive, negative and pessimistic people are a reality in any workplace or organization. We cannot choose whether to work with them or not, as they may already be there. However, we can choose the time and circumstance under which we work with them. It is important to consider this dimension of avoiding toxic people. Let me give you a concrete example of how to prepare and utilize this aspect. If you have an important meeting next Wednesday at 3 p.m., our advice is to keep your schedule free from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, because if you have a meeting with a toxic, aggressive, or violent person during that time, how will you be able to attend the 3 p.m. meeting? You will be exhausted, as that person would have drained much of your energy.
Therefore, we consider it an important point in the preparation of a negotiator as a human being to sleep well, eat well, do some exercise, and avoid toxic people.
Undoubtedly, the success of a negotiation is largely linked to good preparation. Therefore, I recommend that before your next important and complex negotiation, you should try to work and prepare on these three levels that we have mentioned: the author (knowing the subject matter), the actor (knowing how to transmit your message), and lastly, the preparation of the human being from a physical and psychological point of view.