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Successful negotiators are prepared negotiators. Most of us are not born negotiators. However, through trial-and-error, we learn how to get what we want. By the age of two, a toddler knows how mommy and daddy tick and what it takes to get a cuddle, cookie or favorite toy.

The stakes grew larger as we reach adulthood. The “winner takes all” theory ceases to work. The anthem becomes “I want to be HEARD. LISTEN to me. RESPECT my opinions.”

Five Negotiation Success Steps are contained in the acronym H.E.A.R.D.

Step 1 – H – Homework

Before every negotiation, know as much as possible about the “other team.” Homework comes before conversation. Jump into the heart of the negotiation without proper preparation and you lose more than you gain. It never pays to avoid the homework phase.

Homework includes:

  1.  On-line research tools such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube to uncover information gold that will provide keys to your negotiation success.
  2. Check the other teams’ website, marketing philosophy, recent press releases, stock price, trade magazines articles, blogs, podcasts and webinars.
  3. Homework helps understand your opponent’s needs, wants and bottom line and how it matches your goals.

Step 2 – E – Engage

In the initial meeting, engage the opponent and assess what you know and need to know.

  1. Use open-ended questions to get the other team talking. Confirm research facts you’re unsure about.
  2. Use active listening skills and demonstrate your interest in their position.
  3. Take notes. Notes aid recall of what was said, and commitments made.
  4. Learn to accurately read language. You’ll peek into their true thoughts.
  5. Don’t interrupt. Allow prospects to speak freely.

Step 3 – A – Assess

Assess what you know and don’t know. Test possible solutions with phrases like “what would you say if…” or “let’s imagine when…” or even, “Other than that one deadline we are unable to meet, what else concerns you about doing business with us?”

If you’re faced with someone who answers questions with a question, consider taking a refreshment or comfort break. Their questioning technique can become an impediment rather than a tool. A pause for a coffee refill has saved many a negotiator from losing their emotional control.

Step 4 – R – Recommendation

You’re ready to present your solution, proposal or position.

The recommendation phase is not called the Godfather Step. If you recall in the classic movie The Godfather, there is a scene in which one of the lead characters, Don Corleone, tells his associates that he plans to make their opponents an offer—“an offer they can’t refuse.”

There are debates over who should make the first offer. Go with your gut. I’ve won with either approach. There is adequate research to support either technique.

Step 5 – D – Document

A deal is not finished until it’s in writing. Accurate note taking throughout the process makes this phase easy. Immediately after discussions are concluded and the handshake consummates the verbal agreement, draft the contract.

Before anyone leaves the room, assign responsibilities to participants regarding the next steps towards completion and timing.

Allow time for contract clarifications. You laid the foundation for a future meeting, negotiation or transaction. If all parties were treated fairly and each departs with some of what they need, you’ve built a win-win relationship. You’ll live to do another deal.