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6 Steps for Successful Negotiation

Updated: Dec 29, 2018

One major factor to successful negotiation is preparation. There is no substitute for being prepared for a meeting to negotiate a deal for your business.

The Webster dictionary defines Negotiation as a formal discussion between people who are trying to reach an agreement.  Negotiations are a part of everyday life, whether in business or in our personal lives, we all must sometimes come to the table to air out or desires and bargain so each party can get what they want out of a deal.

Conflicts arise inevitably in life and as humans, we must do our best to work together towards a mutually desirable outcome. The main purpose of negotiations is to attempt to come to agreements so as to prevent any future misunderstandings or disagreements.

I am sure you have probably heard some folks describe themselves as "great negotiators". Hell, others even negotiate as a main function of their profession. This is because negotiating effectively is a skill set one can acquire through practice, repetition and style.

Most negotiations consist of several recognizable phases or stages. One can master these various stages to become good at negotiating. 

Here are the 6 stages of negotiations.

1. Preparation

Preparation is by far the most underlooked stage of negotiating. Certain decisions must be made on all parties before negotiations can commence. Decisions like where the meeting will take place and who will be in attendance. It helps for some kind of structure to be agreed to before the negotiations begin.

The length and topics of discussion must be clearly spelled out. It is also important to use this stage to communicate to all parties, any pertinent facts of the issue at hand. When done correctly, the preparation stage will help avoid any further conflicts and disagreements.

2. Discussion

The second stage of any negotiation has to be the discussion stage. This is when each side communicates to the other their unique understanding of the issue or set of points to be negotiated. Typically, each side clearly states their position on the matter at this time.

Essential skills or activities required at this stage would be questioning, listening and clarifying each point that is misunderstood by either party. Each side should have an open forum to present their case. It is key to listen and take notes at this stage so as not to miss any pertinent information. Seek clarification on any points on which you are not crystal clear.

3. Clarification of goals

This is when all parties acknowledge a common understanding of the goals. It is helpful for goals to be listed in order of importance and systematically addressed. The process of clarification, often times than not will help zoom in on some points that all parties agree on. This stage further establishes or identifies opportunities for compromise.

4. A win-win outcome

This is the stage in any negotiation when all parties work towards some kind of compromise that will cause everyone to feel like they got some of what they came to the table asking for. This is probably the lengthiest part of any negotiation.

At this point it is essential to identify what your opponent will not compromise on and what they are willing to take "off the table". It helps if you completely and in great detail, outline the issues that are most important to your negotiating opponent and address those. You can come back to the peripheral issues later.

5. Consensus

At this stage of any negotiations, all parties must come to some general understanding of the issues and any actions to be taken. All parties must clearly communicate their agreement on points with general consensus and also voice positions on which there is not a general understanding. In some situations, this is the point when all or some parties agree to revisit certain points of the negotiations at a later date.

6. Implementation

From all points covered through the discussion process, all parties must agree on the manner in which the various points will be put into action. This stage presents an opportunity for a clear practical action plan to be created.

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