How to Negotiate Part 2: The Checklist Exercise You Need to Do Before Every Negotiation

5 Steps to Prepare for Every Negotiation for Entrepreneurs and Founders


In last week’s article, we presented a high-level overview of how to prepare for a business negotiation as an entrepreneur.

As we mentioned, these guiding principles were refined over decades of real-life business experience by Marty Finkle, the CEO/Founder of AscendU, a group of executives who provide sales and boardroom consulting. Marty is also a Board Director for Scotwork, a company that specializes in negotiation training and consulting in 38 countries. Amazon, Boeing, Merck, Dell, Starbucks, and Walmart are just a few of their clients.

We thought the seminar provided some very useful and actionable best practices on negotiation that would be very helpful to small business entrepreneurs and startup founders, so with Marty’s permission, we wrote a blog post about what we learned.

As promised, here is an exercise you and your team should go through before any negotiation. The exercise will take you through a checklist to make sure your team is clear and aligned on what your party wants, and what you’re willing to give up to get it.

By the end of the exercise, you’ll have a cheat sheet to reference during the negotiation to make sure you stay on track to achieve your objectives.

But first, to review what we learned from our last article, here are Marty’s 8 top negotiation tips from working at Scotwork:

Summary: Marty’s Top 8 Negotiation Tips

  1. Preparation is not a waste of time
  2. Identify your objectives and prioritize them
  3. Define your Intends and Musts (this defines your flexibility during the negotiation)
  4. Have a Wish and Concession List (these are your tradeables)
  5. Think about information flow ahead of time (what are your needs, what do you want to know, and the timing of information disclosure)
  6. Keep your strategy flexible
  7. Script your opening statement with your imperative
  8. Establish who is doing what in advance

Now for the preparation exercise.

The Cheat Sheet: the Preparation Exercise You Should Do Before Every Negotiation

Now that you know some foundational principles of how to prepare for your next negotiation, here is a checklist to make sure you hit all the different steps of preparation we discussed today. I recommend getting out a sheet of paper and filling out each section with your team.

1) Write Down Your Objective

First, at the top of your sheet, write down in a sentence what you hope to achieve from this negotiation.

This is a good summary statement that you can look back at to keep you focused on the main goal and to prevent distractions.

2) Clarify Your “Nice-to-haves” and “Must-haves”

Secondly, create a list with 3 columns:

  • Issues
  • Intend to get (your realistic expectations)
  • Your non-negotiables (must-haves/must-avoids)

Fill this out as best you can with the information and research you have.

3) Create Your Wish List & Concession List

Thirdly, write down a wish list (what you would like) and a possible concession list (what you’re willing to give away).

Again, fill this out as best you can with the information and research you have. See the “Identify Potential Concessions” section of our last article for more details.

4) Outline Your Opening Statement

Fourthly, on the other side of your sheet, plan out your opening statement. Here are some things you may want to achieve in your opening:

  • Propose the agenda
  • Set the tone
  • Outline your position
  • Explain your goals and needs
  • Explain the expected outcome
  • Outline the must-haves
  • Structure expectations
  • Establish the timescale

5) Consider the Other Side’s Wish List

Lastly, create 3 lists with 2 columns, one for your team and one for the other party:

  • What You Want vs What They Want
  • What You Wish to Avoid vs What They Wish to Avoid
  • You Need to Get vs You Need to Give

You’ll fill this out as you acquire new information from the other party during the negotiation.

Make sure you have this cheat sheet with you during your negotiation. This sheet will make sure you and the conversation stay on track toward achieving your team’s objectives.

If you like this article, feel free to contact Marty Finkle and check out the great work he’s done at AscendU and Scotwork.

Marty is a very in-demand trainer and speaker, so a big thanks again to Marty for letting us share his insights and advice from his decades of experience. Also thank you VFA for booking him as our negotiation seminar!

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