Often, sales negotiations are over before they begin, and the poor sales professional doesn't even know it. There is key and critical ground work that greatly improves the outcome of our negotiation efforts. Here are two things that must occur before a productive negotiation can begin:

Get all of the issues on the table. Knowledge is power. Nowhere is that more true than in the negotiations process! At the very core of effective negotiations is insight, understanding not only what is important, but what is MOST important to the individual(s) on the other side of the table and what is MOST important to you. Understanding the issue at hand in its entirety before starting the negotiations process is integral to ensuring that you will not fall victim to manipulation by your counterpart. Negotiation is about finding solutions for both parties. One cannot overstate the importance of a skillful and thorough exploratory process to uncover all of the customer's needs and motivations. This will prevent you from being blind-sided by unknown factors and unanticipated requests that can quickly throw your fair and balanced solution completely out of balance.

Be sure the individual with whom you are negotiating is empowered to negotiate (versus pre-negotiating for the actual decision maker). It will never work in your favor to negotiate your best deal with one individual, and then have to further negotiate from that point to get the deal signed. At the outset of any negotiation process, it is a fair question to ask who will be involved in approving the negotiated contract/price. The answer to that question should also serve as the attendance list for negotiation sessions and communication.

If both of these conditions are met prior to starting the negotiations process, you will be well on your way to a successful outcome, both in terms of the deal to be struck and the condition of your customer relationship.