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123rf53068591 largeThe Law of Preparation says: Eighty percent or more of your success in any negotiation will be determined by how well you prepare in advance.

Action without planning is the cause of every failure. Negotiating without preparation is the cause of just about every poor deal that you ever get. The very best negotiators are those who take the time to prepare the most thoroughly and to think through the situation completely before the negotiation begins.

The first corollary of this law says: “Facts are everything.”

The devil is in the details. It is the details that trip you up every single time. Be sure to get the facts before you begin negotiating, especially if the subject is large or complicated, or both. Don’t be satisfied with the apparent facts or the supposed facts, or the obvious facts, or the hoped-for facts, or the assumed facts. Insist on the real facts, because the facts don’t lie. Avoid the temptation to accept superficial answers or incomplete numbers. Don’t leap to conclusions. Avoid wishful thinking. Do your research, ask questions, listen carefully and take notes. This can make an extraordinary difference to the outcome.

The second corollary of the Law of Preparation says: “Do your homework; one small detail can be all you need to succeed in a negotiation.”

In his best-selling book My Life in Court, the famous trial lawyer, Louis Nizer, explained how, over a career spanning more than 100 major trials, he was able to win life and death cases for his clients because of the exhaustiveness of his preparation. Sometimes, it was just one small fact that he had been unable to uncover in many hours of research that made all the difference.

Corollary number three of the Law of Preparation says: “Check your assumptions; incorrect assumptions lie at the root of most mistakes.”

One of the assumptions that almost everyone makes when going into a negotiation is that the other party wants to make a deal in the first place.

One of the assumptions that almost everyone makes when going into a negotiation is that the other party wants to make a deal in the first place. This may not be the case at all. You need to test this assumption.

123rf51004164 largeSometimes the other party has already decided to deal with someone else, or not to buy or sell at all. Perhaps he is just going through the motions of negotiating to see how good a deal he can get. Maybe someone else has offered to match the very best offer you can make. He may be negotiating without the authority or the ability to follow through on any deal you agree to. Be sure to check your assumptions before you invest too much time or emotion.

How you can apply this law immediately:

  1. Think on paper. Write down every single detail of the upcoming negotiation. Note every term and condition you can think of. Then, identify your assumptions and begin gathering information to verify or reject them.
  2. Whenever possible, talk to someone else who has negotiated the same sort of deal with the same person. Find out what the other person is likely to want, and what he or she has agreed to in the past. Forewarned is forearmed!