At some point in everyone's life there is a time to negotiate: buying a new car, asking for a raise, running your business or perhaps just bartering for trade. Negotiation is a two way conversation that by definition is intended to give both parties what they want through compromise and concurrence. Skills in negotiation are highly coveted. The "pros" make it an art form, while the rest of us might feel a little sick to our stomachs and often settle for less than intended. To a certain degree there is a formula for success. A good negotiator is roughly 10% personality and 90% preparation.
Personality refers to the air of confidence, cockiness in attitude and willingness to be a bit dramatic - "won't take no for an answer" sort of thing. These traits are often equated with an effective negotiator that can set the tone and perhaps even intimidate their opposition. Should these traits be in your current bag of tricks, they may serve you well as you negotiate your next product or career position. However, confidence without substance behind it, never typically survives past the first few minutes. Therefore your attitude and confidence should directly correlate to the most important element of negotiation - preparation.

No matter how nervous you might be feeling on the inside, the best resolve comes from knowing what you have, what it is worth, and what you really want. Being prepared is not only critical for success; it offsets any potential short comings. Key points in the preparation process:
  1. Definition - What specifically are you negotiating? What are the variables? For a job it could be salary, work arrangements and benefits. For items, such as a new vehicle, you need to know the costs for different options, used vehicles and even other dealers. Be very clear with what the variable factors are and their impact.
  2. Value - There is calculated value based upon research and comparison. Not to be underestimated is the perceived value that only you can determine. In other words, what does it mean to you? For example, how important is it to work from home part-time? You can calculate cost savings in commuting etc., but the ability to be more accessible to your family might be priceless. Negotiating for a vehicle to get the best price is common practice. But are you willing to give up certain driving features?
  3. Minimums - Determine what your bottom line is before going into the negotiation. Factor in all of your priorities PRIOR to being in a situation to have to face someone whose goals may be in opposition to your own.
  4. Maximums - Define the maximum opportunity. For instance, scope out the details of your ideal job situation, write down the all the attributes that are both minimum necessity and nice to have. These are opportunistic items that you want, and should ask for. The fact that they are beyond your minimum requirement is fine, it gives you something to work with in terms of sacrificing different points.
  5. Counterpart - Who will you be negotiating with? What can you determine about them ahead of time? Be empathetic - what would you be trying to accomplish if you were on their side of the table? Understanding who you are negotiating with and on what terms is very powerful information for the process.
Now that the topical preparation is done, it is time to consider your own strengths and weaknesses in a negotiation situation. Everyone has negotiated before in one form or another - children and parents are naturals. But as we get older, the secret social judgments we hear in our subconscious kick in and we become more adept at conforming, not rocking the boat and being self-conscience. The whole point of a negotiation is to be able to articulate what you looking for and want. Practice some key phrases that will summarize your position and at least be able to demonstrate that you have done your homework and know the value of what you are asking for.

Lastly, drop any chip on your shoulder, stay calm and do not treat the situation as a meeting on the battlefield. There is a difference between being confident and arrogant. True confidence is not demonstrated in condescension or attitude, it is displayed by listening to the other person(s), and willfully taking the time to pause and consider your words. Do your homework, and every negotiation will be a successful one.