I spent the day with about one hundred members of Young Presidents’ Organization in a negotiating skills seminar given by Vicki Medvec. I went because I had heard so many positive things about Vicki and have always enjoyed the process of negotiating. Vicki is a Professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business and a consultant with an impressive list of Fortune 1000 clients.

Below are my key take-aways from the session.  These principles can be applied to doing deals, hiring execs, buying almost anything, or communicating with family members (even ones you get along with).

  1. Don’t engage in “single-issue” negotiations. Keep multiple issues on the table until the negotiation is complete. All points such as scope of service, payment terms, price, termination provisions, etc. are interrelated so when one term is opened up, all issues are opened up.
  2. Eighty percent of a successful negation is in the planning. Have a well-researched plan that prepares you for all expected twists and turns and has ambitious goals.
  3. Always present three options about which you are indifferent. Presenting options is powerful because the feedback you get from the other party helps you learn about what’s really important to them.
  4. Always have a strong alternative to what you are trying to get from someone else learn as much as you can about the other party’s alternative.
  5. Present proposals in person or on the phone. No more emailing a proposal and hoping for the best. Stop looking for jobs or bidding on contracts unless you will be able to quickly be in conversation with the other party.

I walked away from the workshop with another insight: I often set my goals too low when I go into a negotiation. Medvec encourages ambitious goal-setting and not aggressive tactics. I set my goals too low when I don’t want to make the other party uncomfortable and want to avoid conflict and rejection.

Remind yourself of your unique abilities, don’t diminish what you are offering, and ask for what you want.

One thing you can be sure about in a negotiation you won’t get what you don’t ask for.