FlashMBA.com: The Evolution of Professional Skills Training

What is Your Negotiating Agenda?

Posted by Andrew Hupert on Jul 20, 2017 11:26:37 AM

 The old saying is true: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

A negotiating agenda is your plan for success.   The first commandment of negotiation  is “never think and speak at the same time”. Your agenda is the advanced planning that will prepare you for any contingency once you are at the negotiating table. It is made up of 3 components:

  • Deal points / Variables
  • Process
  • Relationship 
What is a negotiating agendaFlashMBA's Negotiators Toolkit

Deal points

This is your ASK. What do you want the other side to deliver. Choosing the right deal points or variables is the key to successful negotiation. The reason you are at the negotiating table is because you need something from the other side. You need to set your deal points so that he delivers what you need – not what he wants to give.

Negotiating deal points are the heart of your agendaYour ASK – not your WANT. It is your job as a negotiator to frame the conversation around your definition of success. Don’t let the other side decide on the deal points – this is a major source of competition in a negotiation.

SMART is better than clever. Make sure your negotiating variables are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed. Once you put your deal points on the table, they should be clear and verifiable to everyone involved.

Set your benchmarks. The less ambiguity and “wiggle room” in a negotiation, the more certain the outcome. Plenty of professional negotiators have shaken hands and walked away with a signed agreement – just to find out that there is no real meeting of the minds about the issues being negotiated. Use objective, external, verifiable benchmarks that are relevant to your deal. If you are discussing costs of plastic parts, you may use the price of petroleum as a benchmark.


Deal points are your WHAT and WHY.  Process is the HOW, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW.     Process describes how you are going to negotiate. Is the negotiation formal or informal? Face-to-face or distance? Your office, his, or a neutral location? Are you negotiating towards a binding contract or is this an interim step? Who will be in the room? How long will the discussions last? What happens next?

Experienced negotiators know that process issues can make or break a business deal.


Are you negotiating for a long-term relationship or a one-off ?

If you plan on seeing this counterparty again, then you have some form of relationship. Make that part of your plan.

The relationship aspect of the agenda is almost wholly overlooked by Americans, but in Asia, the Middle East, and other “high context” cultures it is considered a high priority.

Relationship is about trust, information, and expectation of future gain. If you want a strategic partnership with a counter-party, then you should expect to leave some money on the table in the short term

If you consider a relationship important, then you have to make sure it is backed up by your choice of variables. If you don’t want a relationship, then make sure you are not paying for one.

Why do you need a negotiating agenda?        

train-wreck-67775_1920.jpgAn agenda is a plan, and like all plans it is a valuable way to define what a win looks like, and to keep you on track while your counter-party maneuvers to maximize his gains. An agenda is a mission statement, a tactical roadmap, an early-warning system, and your North Star. It keeps you on track.

The reality is, that you already have an agenda when you negotiate – but it might be terrible for your situation. If your agenda lacks analysis or explicit planning, then you may be letting emotions, fears, and assumptions lead you off-point.

Do you tell the other side about your agenda?

Yes and no. You will decide in advance exactly what you want to share with your counter-party – and what remains confidential.   Make sure that you arrange this with the rest of your team, or you may find that you are working at cross-purposes with your own technical experts.

Dueling Agendas

Every negotiation is a duel between two stories – yours and his. Your agenda is like the table of contents for your deal. Just remember that he has his own agenda, and he is struggling to get that on the table first. If you allow the other side to select the variables, the venue, and the relationship, then you are weakening your position unnecessarily.


Final Word: The negotiator that sets the agenda has a major competitive advantage at the bargaining table.

Sign up for the  Managing Millennials Newsletter from FlashMBA.com 

Join the Managing Millennials Newletter


Topics: how to negotiate, Negotiating agenda

Written by Andrew Hupert

FlashMBA.com -  Cross Cultural Skills for New Business leaders.

FlashMBA teaches cross-culture business skills for professionals who demand fast, high-impact learning that focuses on real solutions.

  • Negotiation
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Management
  • Leadership 

Subscribe to Email Updates


Professional skills training delivered in a fast, flash-card format.

Online classes, slideshows, videos and articles focusing on soft-skills.

  • Negotiation
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving

Manage your skills training like you manage your career.

Subscribe to Email Updates

FlashMBA's Negotiators Toolkit
Join the Managing Millennials Newletter

ChinaSolved: Business Solutions for International Negotiators

The International Negotiator: Apple in China (from FlashMBA.com)

Nothing stays off the table forever. Apple recently removed access to VPN services on its China App Store in compliance with government wishes. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are the chief method...Read more

3 Negotiating Takeaways from the NK Coal Boat Maneuver

Win-Win with Chinese Characteristics The new US administration seemed to score a big coup in Asia last week, when China blocked a fleet of North Korean cargo ships carrying coal to Chinese markets....Read more

Three Negotiating Issues to Watch at the Xi Trump Meeting

The upcoming Xi – Trump meeting is the first face-to-face sit down between the two leaders.  The US side has been clear about what it wants from China, but it’s not quite as clear what it plans...Read more

The Future of US-China Commercial Relations: Welcome to the Multiconomy

Takeaway – Established Western brands will continue to defend their global leadership positions for a while yet, but Chinese corporates are taking control of growing niches and new...Read more

5 Negotiating Lessons from Sec. of State Tillerson’s Beijing Trip

That treacherous opening Chinese toast. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first official visit to China last weekend, and the White House probably sees it as one of the bright spots in a...Read more

Share FlashMBA Articles


Follow Flash