Negotiate Like an Athlete

on Thursday, 09 October 2014. Posted in General

Recently I completed in another distance sports event, an adventure race that included running, kayaking, mountain running/climbing and cycling. It was only 46k so not that big a deal, except for one huge error on my behalf. I hadn’t prepared appropriately, or for long enough. This isn’t the first of these I have done, not even the first this summer, so what went wrong, what was different. Simply put preparation was inadequate and inappropriate.

I hadn’t been out and put enough hours in on the roads or on the bike, instead I had been doing some intensive whole body training. Certainly I was fit, but not ready for the specific disciplines in store and worse still I bought new low profile very expensive trail runners, which I was determined to use and wore them for the first time on race day. A schoolboy error that came to haunt me, about half way through the race with a mountain to climb ahead, literally as well as metaphorically, I was struck with cramp in my calf muscles on both legs. The pain of the spasm was immense and I was left with two choices, slow down and finish with a poor time or abandon the race.

BATNA in Negotiations:

Preparing for negotiations

In many ways negotiation challenges are the same as sports challenges, they both need preparation and they all include a BATNA, Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. In the race I was miles from home with no clear strategy about what happens if I need to pull out, how do I get home and how do I face what for me would have amounted to failure. I had forgot to prepare for this and so had no BATNA, so my choices were limited, I had to complete the race and accept a poor time, it was after all my own fault. So lesson number one for the negotiator, whether you are a negotiating on behalf of a multinational company, a political party, a country, or a sole trader SME, always prepare a BATNA. You just can’t guarantee that the negotiation will be successful and completed, you always need to keep the BATNA as your walk away position in mind. It also serves as the best measure of the success of the negotiation, if the deal doesn’t exceed BATNA, then move on.


Being unprepared is almost unforgiveable, for most of us we have advanced notice of upcoming negotiations and just need to plan the time for the preparation. Even hostage negotiators who are called on at short notice in intense and dangerous situations will spend as much time as possible finding out all the information they can about their co-party to the negotiation, and will certainly have many practised skills to use. So if they can do it, then there is no excuse for the commercial negotiator

What To Prepare For Negotiations:

How to prepare for negotiations

Simply, everything. Know the people involved, know their relationships to the process and those they may represent, know what you want, identify your BATNA early and don’t forget it. Think about the messages you want to communicate and how best to do that, don’t presume that what you want to say is what is heard. Think of the man asked by his wife as they are attending a social event, “Darling, how do I look”, “fine” he replies, or “fantastic, now come on we are late”. He thinks fine, suggests beauty, she hears barely adequate, or she doesn’t hear fantastic, she hears late and thinks he will say anything to get her out the door and into the car. The reverse is true by the way, about men too, both genders can be sensitive about appearance, but that sensitivity blocks the communication. The assumed sent message bears no resemblance to the received message. So prepare the communication.

Spend most of the preparation time on interests, THEIRS first and then yours. By identifying their interests first, then rechecking them and then doing it again, you become much more prepared for the real substance of the negotiation and for creating OPTIONS for the deal. These options are what expands the pie and increases value, which makes the deal more acceptable. My interest during the race was to justify my new expensive runners and to do this I had to set some form of personal best, due to lack of preparation, based on appropriate identified interests, I was at least 20 mins of that target over the 46K.

Spend time on the research for similar incidences which form the CRITERIA to measure the deal, research the market and the subject, this way you can manage the distributive question by asking them to justify prices and values set. Above all prepare for negotiations so you meet your interests well and the other sides at least acceptably so that the relationship is improved and certainly not damaged.

How do you prepare for negotiations?

Do you prepare for your negotiations? Please leave a comment in the form below with your thoughts and opinions. If you like this article please share with others.

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