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4 Steps to Prepare for a Collaborative Negotiation

By |October 02, 2023

The key to any negotiation success lies in the preparation you put in ahead of time and the mindset you bring to the table. 

No matter who your counterpart is, it’s important to remember that the person you’re negotiating with is not your adversary. Remembering that the issue is the adversary allows you to collaborate toward a solution that works for both sides.

On the flip side, when you dominate the conversation with your point of view, you make the situation about yourself and end up negotiating against yourself. By giving your counterpart the opportunity to speak, you create the space needed for them to share what’s most important, often resulting in them giving you information you weren’t aware of.

In addition to understanding that your counterpart is not your enemy, these four steps can ensure your next negotiation is a collaborative endeavor.

Step 1: Define the goal.

Before approaching the table, it’s important to establish your end goal. In fact, you should write it down on a piece of paper. 

When you write the goal down, you commit. To take that commitment one step further, discuss the goal with a colleague before the negotiation commences.

To keep your goal top of mind, put the written goal into your pocket and bring it to the negotiation table as a reminder of what you intend to accomplish.

Step 2: Prepare and use an Accusation Audit®.

Next, it’s time to do your due diligence and learn everything there is to know about the deal. Do everything you can to put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes and see things from their perspective. At this point, start listing the Accusation Audits® (AAs) you’ll use throughout the negotiation.

Make sure to write out a minimum of six AAs. For example, you might scribble down phrases like:

  • You’re not going to like what I’m about to say.
  • You’ll probably think I’m being unreasonable and coming in with a low offer.
  • You might think I’m just wasting your time.

When you use an Accusation Audit to kick off the conversation, you defuse the negatives in your counterpart’s mind, setting the stage for more constructive dialogue. 

Are you wondering how you can organize all this information effectively? Download The Black Swan Group’s Negotiation One-Sheet.

Step 3: Go in with the C.A.V.I.AA.R.™ mindset.

After preparing your AAs, remember to maintain your C.A.V.I.AA.R.™ mindset, which tells you to: 

  • Stay curious.
  • Accept the fact you’re going to be attacked.
  • Vent your frustrations to a colleague or friend before sitting down at the table.
  • Identify the negotiator type you’re up against.
  • Use an Accusation Audit. 
  • Remember that your counterpart is not your adversary.

Once you get to the table, keep in mind that 80 percent of the conversation should be about your counterpart. Let them do the talking as the negotiation kicks off.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Download our infographic to learn the nine crucial negotiation  skills that will give you the edge over your counterpart »

Step 4: Close with Calibrated Questions™.

Because your counterpart should talk 80 percent of the time, 20 percent of the space is yours. Fill the space by asking Calibrated Questions™ to identify potential deal-killers lurking in the shadows:

  • How does this affect you the rest of the time?
  • What do your colleagues see as the main challenges in this area? 

Even though you may just be negotiating with one person, that person always has a team behind them. Calibrated Questions can help you identify internal challenges your counterpart may be facing, which you can dig into further using Labels™: It seems you’re worried about the timeline. 

Remember, if you Label something incorrectly, your counterpart will let you know. As the Laws of Negotiation Gravity™ tell us, the power to correct is irresistible.  

Use an Accusation Audit and other Black Swan skills and make it rain!

It bears repeating: In any negotiation, your counterpart is not your adversary; the situation is. By following these steps and leaning on Black Swan skills, you can work with the other side and arrive at a deal that works for both parties.

To continue learning, check out this infographic that explains the Negotiation 9™, The Black Swan Group’s core set of skills.

The Black Swan Group Negotiation 9