What is data? How does it impact a negotiation. How do you gather it? Data is the meat of preparation. Negotiators should take the time to fully prepare. If they do this, often as not they will be better prepared than the other person. As a result, they will likely control the conversation and its outcome.
Data is any information available about a given topic, person, commodity or situation. Having the discipline to gather, assess and use this data makes the difference between negotiating and begging. Preparedness is the key to a successful negotiation.
Data is readily available in the information age. Computers, data bases, the Internet. newspaper archives, public libraries, even company historians all have a wealth of raw data. Knowing where to look and how to search are excellent tools to develop to help you be a better negotiator.
Computers and the Internet are great tools when searching for data that is in the public domain. This type of information may be available at the library, newspaper archives, from a title company, or off the Internet. It is difficult to refute hard data. That is why it is worth the extra effort to gather. It is also important to know what facts can be used against you. When you conduct fact-based research, be alert for related information that may be used against you. The search for data should be broad-based and inclusive. Being properly prepared takes away the element of surprise at the moment of confrontation.
When you are investigating the person or persons you will be confronting seek the counsel of others who know the person, study previous negotiation results with the person or his company, casually discuss the person with his peers. Never miss an opportunity to discuss him with his secretary or assistant. Often a little casual conversation will reveal reams of valuable information about how his day is going, his travel schedule and even pressures around the office. In days of old secretaries were guardians at the door. Today the roles have changed and that former loyalty may be lacking.
With a little sleuthing, there are usually some valuable insights available. As with data-based research, cast a wide net and collect as much information about the other person's interests, nature, and reputation as possible. You can use this collective pool of data to talk about his hobbies and interests to build a relationship or use it to be on the alert for his known stylistic tactics.
The author is an assistant editor at How-to-Negotiate.com, a site featuring articles about the use of data in negotiations required in the dispute settlement process and how people negotiate everything in their daily lives be it personal issues, parenting matters, social conflicts, or business or work related challenges. The site promotes the fact that conflict is a natural aspect of everyone's life and we should all work at improving our ability to negotiate the curves life throws our way.