Map out your research:
- The Players
- The Fact Base
- Standards and Benchmarks
Research the Players – Stakeholders, Your Team, and The Other Party
Make a list of all the people who have an interest in the negotiation and outcome. Ask yourself:
"Who could possibly be impacted by this negotiation process?"
Think broadly. Stakeholders are not usually the people who will be negotiating on either side but are the partners, users, regulators, customers, constituents, community, media, etc. Keep their interests and perspectives in mind.
In the Preparation Stage you should identify your negotiating team members if there are any. Think about what diversity of skill sets and background experiences are needed on the team, such as finance, technical, relationship management, etc. Assess the value of personal diversity to the team – culture, gender, race, age, and personality. Define your negotiation team's lines of authority and the role each person is going to play during the negotiation. Clarity around roles is important, but don't be too bound by these lines because sometimes roles change as relationships and trust build among parties.
The Other Party
An important part of preparation for negotiation is to learn about the other side's players. Learn the other party's business culture and company philosophies. Think about who should be on the other team – who has the authority to reach agreement? If you know the negotiators themselves at this stage, are there profiles of them that would be helpful? It sounds obvious to say "Google" the individuals on the other side, but most miss this source of interesting information. (See what papers they have written, conferences where they have spoken, charitable interests, positions in trade organizations, etc.) Knowing more about the individuals you will be negotiating with will help find affiliations in the Exchange Stage.
Research the Fact Base
Preparation involves the investigation of information, some fact and some assumptions, in order to define the scope of the negotiation. Return to the long list you made earlier and target those items you listed as Assumptions and Don't-Knows. Gather data to learn as much as you can about the person with whom you will negotiate the organization that person represents, and other relevant issues.
Where will you get this information? Of course the Internet comes to mind immediately. What other sources of data are available to you on and off the Internet?
- The Internet
- Current contracts or agreements
- Past negotiations
- The supplier, customer, or other stakeholders
- Social directories: LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
- Other organizations with whom they do business
- Filings on publicly traded companies (USA examples: Annual report, 10K,10-Q)
- Bureau van Dijk Orbis, Access Asia, Hoovers
- Government commerce and labor departments
- Dun & Bradstreet
- GuideStar.org (NGO or not-for-profits)
- Industry and trade associations
- Online newspapers & magazines
- LexisNexis; Westlaw; TheLaw.net (other legal sources)
No longer can you assume information will be your source of power in a negotiation. Today, information is the price of admission. Information is powerful, but with the Internet explosion you cannot rely on any advantage from information. The other side may come less prepared and you may gain the advantage yet, but don't count on it.
Benchmarks are measurements by which you can judge performance. Benchmarks should help you improve performance. More often than not, benchmarks are data driven. During the Preparation Stage it is important to identify in advance what benchmarks or industry standards you are willing to accept and which ones you will reject. Read more about Standards of Fairness here >
- When purchasing resins, negotiators should know the industry standards they are willing to accept, the CDI or IHS index?
- When negotiating the purchase of a used car in North America, will you accept the value from the "Blue Book", "Yellow Book" or "Edmunds" – or all?
Identifying benchmarks or standards in advance can save time and (sometimes) build relationships of trust because all parties are ‘on the same page' from the start.