Negotiation Planning Checklist*

Use the following checklist when planning for negotiations.

Great negotiators are able to look at a negotiation from the other side’s perspective. Several questions below ask you to take this perspective. These questions are underlined. Your answers to these questions will in most cases be estimates until you can obtain additional information by questioning the other side during the negotiation.

For background information, see Chapters 3, 5 and 6 in Negotiating for Success:

In Print and Kindle Digital

Additional Digital Formats

Goals and Best Alternatives

  1. What is my goal in this negotiation? Why do I want to achieve this goal?

  2. What is my best alternative for achieving this goal if this negotiation is not successful?

  3. Will I disclose my best alternative to the other side during this negotiation? (Usually “yes” if your alternative is strong and “no” if your alternative is weak.)

  4. How can I improve my best alternative? (By improving your alternative, you increase your power.)

  5. What is the other side’s goal in this negotiation? Why does the other side want to achieve this goal?

  6. What is the other side’s best alternative for achieving its goal if this negotiation is not successful?

  7. How can I weaken the other side’s best alternative? (By weakening the other side’s best alternative, you increase your power.)

  8. (For a detailed analysis of Questions 2-7, see Developing Your Negotiating Power)

    Issues That Are Likely to Arise (apart from price)

  9. What issues are likely to arise during the negotiation? List them and after each issue note:
    1. whether the issue is “tradable” (because it is of relatively low importance to you) or “not tradable” (because the issue is important to you),
    2. why the issue is important to me,
    3. facts I can use to support my position on each issue,
    4. whether the other side considers the issue to be “tradable” or “not tradable,” and
    5. why the issue is important to the other side.

    (In complex negotiations, you should consider using a spreadsheet to organize these issues.)

  10. Do I have a personal or long-term relationship with the other side? If so, how might this relationship affect the analysis in #8? If not, do I want to build a relationship with the other side?

  11. Using the analysis at #8, what are the possible ways to create value for both sides—for example, by trading issues or by building on interests? What questions do I want to ask the other side when exploring these possibilities?
  12. Questions Relating to Price

  13. What is my reservation price? Why is this price important to me? (The reservation price is the lowest price you are willing to accept if you are the seller or the highest price you are willing to pay if you are the buyer.)

  14. What is the most likely price? (This is a reasonable target price.)

  15. What is my stretch goal? (Use this stretch early in negotiations. This is the highest price or the lowest price—depending on whether you are seller or buyer—that you can reasonably justify.)

  16. What is the other side’s reservation price?

  17. What is the zone of potential agreement? (This is the zone in which a deal can take place. This zone lies between the two reservation prices.)

  18. Should I be the first to state a price? (If you are fairly confident about the value, consider anchoring the other side to your offer by stating the price first. If you are not confident about the value, asking the other side to state the price first is one way to determine value. But avoid becoming anchored to the other side’s number.)
  19. Authority When Agents Are Involved

  20. Am I negotiating as an agent? If so, what are the limits of my authority?

  21. If the other side is acting as an agent, what are the limits of the other side’s authority? (This information should come from the principal, not the agent.)

*Thank you to the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) for encouraging the development of this planner. IACCM, in partnership with Huthwaite International, produced a benchmark study entitled “Improving Corporate Negotiation Performance.” The study noted the importance of planning to negotiation success, but concluded that most companies use no formal planning tools. After reviewing a planning template included in the study, I prepared a list of items that should be in a planner and presented them to contract professionals at conferences in the United States and Europe and to an international audience during a webinar. This planning checklist incorporates feedback from these veteran negotiators.