Negotiators, that is, expert negotiators in business and in all other walks of life do not begin to focus on a situation only after it begins to turn into a crisis. They prepare for the eventualities well in advance.
As negotiators we tend to focus too many of our efforts on this deal, or on the present opportunity. However, if we are in it for the long-term, we cannot only focus on what is important specifically to this deal. Effective negotiators are able to pre-empt negative eventualities by understanding the difference between focusing narrowly on information that is relevant to today's deal, and focusing broadly on information that may one day mark the difference between winning and losing. Many times it is not obvious what is or may one day become relevant or even critical information. We focus intensely on the present conditions and opportunity and we do a poor job of asking the questions and collecting the information that will allow us to make those determinations in the future.
Here are five key questions you need to ask yourself before signing off on a contract to make sure there is thorough long-term assessment in mind:
- How will changing market dynamics affect the wisdom of the deal?
- What precedents are you creating for future deals?
- How might your competitors or your customers' competitors react to the deal?
- How much power do these competitors have, and what is the source of their power?
- What assumptions are you making when you estimate the benefits and long-term success of the your strategy?
Before signing, take time to reflect on your most important past negotiations. Did you miss any opportunities? Did you fail to identify or explore information that could have helped you craft a better deal? How could you have gathered that information? Assemble a team or group of colleagues who's purpose it is to identify possible blind spots and expand your awareness.