When we think of negotiations, we usually take an outward or external focus. How will we prepare to work with our counterparts? What leverage points do we have? Who do we have to persuade that the deal is signature-worthy?
And with the right preparation, guidance and discipline, we’ll usually achieve a solid result for ourselves. But we’re overlooking something – something that can vastly change (for the better) how our negotiations unfold and how smoothly we’re able to close. That something is the internal negotiation.
Taking a look at the internal landscape – the stakeholders, the leverage points, the decision making sweet-spots – and then navigating it wisely is essential to success. How to navigate? Here are your 3 keys to a smooth internal negotiation.
No decision-maker or stakeholder likes being late to the negotiation party. Avoid late-stage pushback by engaging them in the preparation phase of the discussions. A great way to do this is to have a kick-off meeting, and invite everyone who will be impacted by the outcome or who will have control over the final agreement. Think beyond your department vice-presidents, and look to sister organizations: quality control, development, production, logistics, finance…you get the idea – cast your net wide and capture their input from Day 0. Bonus: Holding a kick-off meeting will help you identify people who will be valuable go-to resources for you during the negotiation process.
Looking to your own experiences with change, you’ll likely see that incremental changes are far easier to get used to than large-scale game changing ones. The same goes for the evolution of a negotiation. Holding a kick-off session and then not touching base with your organization until the final document is ready can be just as disruptive as pulling the chair out from under them. Avoid this, and smooth your path to approval, by keeping everyone in the loop throughout your negotiation journey. Try a weekly email status update, combined with a monthly meeting or teleconference to share results, explore options and pick the brains of the stakeholders. Bonus: Frequent, bite-sized communications allow you to shape the message you want to be sending. It directs focus where it’s needed and wanted much better than a generalized broadcast does.
Make that short and sweetly. You’ve got everyone on board with a kick-off. You’ve brought everyone along with you by keeping them updated on negotiation developments. And now you’re ready to move this over the finish line. How frustrating would it be to get turned back to the negotiation table now? Super. You can mitigate that risk by using both your insight from the kick-off session and your communication skills from regular status updates to create a perfectly positioned, short and sweet deal summary. Your summary should hit all the highlights and convey the value this contract holds for your firm. Minimized cost exposure? Flaunt it. Secured an extra 3 years on the term? Let it shine. Round out the summary with other essential elements (they’ll be different for each business, so think back to what topics got really hot during your kick-off and status reviews – chances are people will want to know where those landed) and voila – you’ve crafted a targeted, positively positioned summary document to bring to your leadership. Bonus: Keeping the summary to a single page is a great way to create a cheat-sheet for future reference. Whenever a question comes up, you’ll have all the essentials at your fingertips.
Negotiations are never easy – but that rocky road of internal negotiation is one that you can smooth – leaving you with more time and energy to work with your counterparts on the best possible deal.