Unlock the Secrets to Successful Negotiations: The Importance of Evaluation
Updated: Jan 24
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” , Henry Ford.
As a negotiation consultant for Impact Negotiation Group, I work with organizations that have established sales or procurement processes, but lack any formal process with regards to negotiations (often times just a simple heading in the wider sales/procurement process “negotiation”).
The end result is that far too often negotiations are not thoroughly prepared and the same mistakes are made over and over. In this article I will not dive deep in the importance of preparation, instead I want to focus on the importance of evaluating the negotiations once concluded, an essential step that is mostly ignored and overlooked due to other priorities. So why should someone evaluate their negotiations? The answer is simple: evaluation helps you become a better negotiator and reach better results!
When you evaluate your negotiations, you can identify areas of improvement and develop strategies to become more successful in future negotiations. Evaluation also allows you to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your negotiation style, so that you can adjust accordingly. It also forms a negotiation record of your counterpart, whom you may negotiate with again in the future. Humans are creatures of habit. It's in our nature to seek out patterns and avoid change. This means that knowing what someone did in the past may help you forecast what they will do in the future.
So how do you go about evaluating your negotiations? Here are some steps to get started:
1. Reflect on the negotiation process: Take some time to reflect on the negotiation process and consider what went well and what could have been done differently. Ask yourself who was in control of the negotiation process; you or the other party? Who was dictating the timeline, who was experiencing time pressure? Should you start earlier with your preparation? This will help you identify areas of improvement for future negotiations.
2. Analyze the outcome: Compare the outcome with what you set out to achieve. What was my Best Possible Outcome, what was my BATNA and where did we end the negotiation. Reflect on the main causes that resulted in you not achieving your Best Possible Outcome (was it too ambitious? Not realistic? Miscalculation of Power?). Think about what went wrong and how you can avoid making similar mistakes in the future. If you did achieve your Best Possible Outcome, ask yourself if you maximized the value of the deal, could you have gotten more? Think about what contributed to that success and how you can replicate it in future negotiations.
3. Consider your communication style & behaviors: Think about how effectively you communicated during the negotiation process and whether there were any areas where your communication could have been improved. Consider whether there were any misunderstandings or miscommunications that could have been avoided with better communication skills. What were the behaviors shown during the negotiations from your side as well as the other party. Could you have influenced their behavior? Was the style of behavior constructive to the negotiation or rather destructive?
4. Assess your preparation: Evaluate how well prepared you were for the negotiation process and consider whether there were any areas where more preparation would have been beneficial. Think about what resources or information would have been helpful to have prior to entering into negotiations. Was there sufficient alignment within your organization ? Were there any unforeseen obstacles that you could have anticipated and prepared for? Did you develop a move planner, and did you stick to the move plan or did you deviate from the plan. If you deviated from the plan, why did you deviate?
By taking these steps to evaluate your negotiations, you will be able to identify areas of improvement and develop strategies for becoming a more successful negotiator in the future. Another element that is key to the evaluation of your negotiation is the recording and storing of the information in an environment accessible to the future negotiation team. You may even consider organizing lunch and learns where people present their negotiation results and learnings. This is a way of creating a corporate memory and for others to use this in their advantage later on. In storing and recording the information we recommend to be as complete as possible. The bare minimum elements that need to be present are: our move planner and the record of the actual moves made during the negotiation (theirs and ours).
In summary : this is the first “document” you should go thru before kicking off the preparation for your next negotiation. With practice and dedication, evaluation can help make sure that you and your organization improve future negotiations, and improve your competences in the invaluable skill of negotiation.