Set your Goals

vcm_s_kf_repr_275x327Goals are what you want.  Your negotiating performance can only be as good as your goal system.  If your goals are appropriate, comprehensive, and considered, then they form the foundation of a successful negotiation.  If your goal system is reactive, incomplete, or ill-conceived, then you have already lost.

To set good business goals, you have to understand what you want and who influences the decisions that decide if you reach those goals or not.

Goals vs. Goal Systems:

Simple goals have one counterparty, few variables, and tight time-frames.  More complex goal systems typically involve multiple variables, several different counterparties and a range of time frames.  It is important you understand what your goals are INDEPENDENT of this negotiation or counterparty!  Figure out
what you want and where you plan on being before you start negotiating.  One of the biggest risks novice negotiators face is allowing their counterparty too much influence in the goal-setting process.

Who is setting your goals?

Businessman has stress and sreams into mobile phoneAre you working off of someone else’s playbook, or are you setting the goals for this negotiation?  If there is more than one stakeholder (and there usually will be) then you have to make sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. The technical phrase is “goal congruence”, but what it really boils down to is getting everyone’s buy-in BEFORE you start negotiating with a counterparty.

Negotiate GOALs internally, and VARIABLES externally.

Formalize your goal-setting

Goal-setting is a breeding ground for bad assumptions, dangerous miscalculation and mission-creep.  Be explicit about your goal-setting process, and recheck your findings frequently.  If your goals are too rigid you may have too few variables.  (Be particularly wary of negotiations where cash or price are the only goal.  This is sure to deadlock.)  If you goals are too vague you may not have enough information — in which case an aggressive counterparty will be more than happy to supply the missing structure, valuations, and benchmarks.

One good way of getting the goal-setting conversation going (within your own team, of course) is to use the SMART goal-setting framework in your early-stage discussions.

Organize goal-setting by being SMART about your analysis:



Actionable & Appropriate


Time bound

Don’t worry if your goals are still a little cloudy or vague — we’ll spend time on how to focus and measure goals presently.


Next:  The Negotiation Equation

Back:  The GOBLINS Guide

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