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Picking Your Battles: When to Let Go in a Negotiation

Many negotiators want to get as much benefit from a deal as possible. It's very unlikely, however, that you will get everything you want from a negotiation. Negotiations can be emotionally intense, and without proper preparation, you may discover after the fact that you've compromised on important issues for relatively unimportant gains.

Making hasty decisions in the middle of a negotiation often leads to a bad or lopsided deal. That's why it's important to make some of your key choices before the negotiation even begins.

Discover Your Top Priorities

Before the negotiation begins, map out all the possible issues you may discuss. Consider price, marketing, division of labor, rights, and any other issues that are relevant to your negotiation. Rank them in order from the most important, deal-breaking terms to those you can afford to concede.

While ranking, it helps to consider the relationship between interests. One issue that seems unimportant by itself may become more important based on how it impacts the rest of your list. Also consider what the other party is likely to want from you. Interests that you'll disagree on may require more concessions from the bottom of your list than objectives you share in common. In the end, you want a firm idea of your top priorities.

Let Everything Else Go

Unless you're in the very rare instance where your needs and the needs of your counterparty are perfectly aligned, you will likely need to compromise on some issues to achieve your most important goals. This is where prioritization is key. Understanding and achieving your top goals early in a negotiation helps you determine which items lower on your list you can afford to sacrifice.

Your counterparty will be undergoing this same process. It could be that giving them what they need costs you relatively little, and you end up gaining more than just your top priorities. In other cases, you may have to concede most of your less important goals to get the items that really matter to you. It's easy during this stage of negotiation to become fixated on relatively unimportant issues. This is where you can refer back to the preparation you did before the negotiation to remind you of your key priorities.

Once an agreement has been reached and you've gotten your key items, contract presentation is essential to keeping that deal intact. A badly arranged or confusing contract can undermine your counterparty's confidence in you and lead to a renegotiation. Pay attention to small details. Compress PDF to ensure your formatting stays intact. Your contract is your best chance to convince your counterparty they've made the right choice. 

Gain What Matters Most

Contract negotiations are time sensitive, and resources are often limited. Ranking your priorities and giving yourself permission to make concessions before the negotiation begins can help streamline this difficult process and ensure that your needs are met. It's much better to achieve your most important goals than to concede them in pursuit of lower priorities.

In deciding what your top priorities are, seeking advice from more experienced business professionals can be invaluable. Join your local chamber of commerce to form connections with other business leaders in your community.