Question: Despite the planning my people and I make before meeting our customers, our negotiation plans become almost useless because of other factors that eventually get introduced during actual negotiations. Is there a better way to plan to influence outcome of negotiations? –Randy, Sales Manager-Quezon City.

You are not alone in this predicament. Many of those who attend both my Effective Negotiating and Influencing Skills (tactical focus) and Negotiation Strategies and Secrets (Strategic Focus) seminars air such frustrations when asked what brings them to the learning engagement.  And when probed on what benefit they foresee from better planning, the top responses include: ensuring win-win, gaining better control over the negotiation turnout, avoiding wasted meetings, eliminating surprises that lead to unexpected over-commitments or worse, the loss of profits, reducing stress from anxiety before the negotiation and discomfort over not knowing where the negotiation discussions will meander.  In other words, most prefer to navigate more smoothly through negotiations and if possible, gain control over the process and outcome. Are both these possible? Certainly they are.

Elementary Planning
The most common practice I have observed is planning that involves making a grocery list of what one wants during negotiation. Some are a bit more information-laden by including what they can give as concessions. Still others include a rock-bottom amount for their concessions. Better yet, some contemplate on a back-up plan. 

Truly these could all help. The questions that arise though are the following: 1) Will this type of planning suffice to protect the profit? 2) Will this plan type allow optimization (maximization of negotiation gains versus concessions to be given)? 3)  Can this kind of planning help predict and anticipate scenarios that can actually happen? 4) Does this take into account the atmosphere of negotiation? and 5)  Can this anticipate the negotiation players’ actions and their biases, particularly those that run into conflict with one’s side?

It is quite apparent now that elementary planning suffers enormously from lack of depth and breadth. More tragically, when actual negotiation begins, the elementary plan usually falls apart or becomes unreliable.

Tactical Planning
This higher-order level planning that Mansmith and Fielders has developed, comprehensively covers and organizes on a one-page planner all the key components of negotiations: objectives of each side, the critical interests, concessions drawn from two types of interest, sources of power, among others. From the information quickly organized, clear, efficient tactical analysis can be made to determine: conflict points, alternative solution matches, deal-sustaining factors, power and pressure sources, predictors of a deal or deadlock, among others. Furthermore, I have developed and added as a tactical tool, a very simple “Mathematics of Negotiation” that can be learned provided one simply knows how to count from one to six, add as well as subtract. Although quite simple, it relieves one of unnecessary stress from long-drawn and circuitous worrying. Imagine, days and nights of anxiety collapsed into just a few minutes of computations! With tactical planning, it becomes easier to navigate through negotiation execution.

Strategic Planning
This level of planning involves analysis of possibilities, probabilities and preferred outcomes using a very simple tool.  Coupled with negotiator style analysis, scenarios can be easier to model and anticipate. Moreover, strategic planning allows the user to anticipate and prepare how to influence the nego-sphere (negotiation atmosphere). When you add meeting strategy preparation, execution can then include a more thorough plugging of dangerous possibilities and development of alternative scenarios.  The ultimate benefits strategic negotiations planning can provide are better visibility and control of the negotiation flow and outcome.

Conclusion
Elementary Negotiation Planning appears easiest but its ineffectiveness is an unforgivable letdown. On the other hand, a combination of Tactical and Strategic Negotiations Planning avoids letting things fall into the cracks, thereby enhancing both navigation and control over negotiation.

Rowen Untivero is Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing, sales and innovation training company in the Philippines.  He is the developer/training master of three Negotiation Courses (Tactical, Strategic and Language of Negotiation), where related framework, processes, strategies and tools can exclusively be learned. For inquiries, please call (+63-2)584-5858 / 412-0034, email info@mansmith.net or text (+63)918-81-168-88.  Please send your questions, comments or feedback to mentors@mansmith.net.