News TemplateUnderstanding the Other Party Before You Start Negotiations

Effective negotiation requires a strong understanding of the other party’s motivations and general position. With this information, you can relate to them and present terms that are largely in your interest and theirs. 

But finding out these details isn’t always easy. Simply asking may also fail to get you answers unless both parties are approaching the negotiation from a place of trust. 

That’s why you need to ask in a way that communicates your genuine interest in helping the other party to meet their goals. In fact, the Harvard Law School blog cites attentive listening and asking precise, well-intentioned questions as two of the most critical negotiation skills.  

Researching the Counterparty

Before you begin negotiations, ask the other party for a list of client references. Go on to contact those references and ask about their experience working with the vendor or partner you’re planning to enter into a contract with. 

The answers you’ll receive won’t just tell you whether they’re a reliable vendor, they’ll also inspire more detailed questions during the negotiation. And you’ll get a sense of the negotiation styles they’ve used in the past. You’ll also know how much other customers are paying, enabling you to tell instantly when a quoted price is too high. 

Questions to Ask During the Negotiation 

  • What’s the reasoning behind your position? Their answer to this question shows you why the counterparty is negotiating the way they are, and it gives you a chance to suggest alternative positions, terms, or courses of action that may better fit your mutual interests.

  • Why is this specific point or provision important to you? Particularly when the other party is being inflexible on a certain clause, this question exposes their true priorities. A clear understanding of the points that matter most to them can help you avoid allocating effort to parts of the agreement where they’re unlikely to compromise.

  • Do you have documentation to validate your stance?  While it’s critical to cultivate an air of mutual trust, it’s equally important to verify the influences behind the counterparty’s terms. Seeing documentation gives you confidence that they’re negotiating in good faith, and your understanding of the proof they present may inspire alternate terms that better accommodate both of you.

  • What else do you think I need to know? Despite all the research you do, it’s impossible to cover all the bases. That’s why this question is important for allowing the counterparty the flexibility to introduce information you may not have otherwise come across.

Keep in mind that these questions will be more fruitful if they’re accompanied by a well-presented contract. Paying close attention to the design of the contract emphasizes your respect for detail. A JPG to PDF converter can ensure the contract looks uniform when printed.

Know Who’s Sitting Across the Table from You 

When negotiations are rooted in both parties understanding each other, they’re more likely to result in successful agreements that are of mutual benefit. The questions and advice here can form an effective basis for preparing to negotiate. 

If you’d like access to more helpful negotiation resources, join your local chamber of commerce.