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7 Tips for Creating the Ultimate Negotiation Wish List

Keith Stacey

Are you using a wish list during your negotiations? Perhaps you're aware of their use but not convinced of their merit during the negotiation process.

If you've completed a Scotwork negotiation program then you'll have some understanding of the purpose of a wish list and the significant value they add to your negotiation strategy. A wish list is your hidden agenda and should be developed with creative thinking in mind, rather than wishful thinking. The wish list represents variables which will add value, but aren't essential to a deal. If you feel that any of your wish list items are essential they should instead be designated as a main issue or a potential deal breaker.

When teaching our negotiation courses it's not uncommon for us to encounter participants who feel that wish lists are petty or unnecessary, or that using them could annoy the other party to the extent of putting a deal at risk. This fear is justified, of course, if the use of the wish list is clumsy or unskilled. Creating a wish list requires sensitivity and considered judgement and shouldn't be used in a way that could be construed by the other party as 'nibbling' or 'creeping the deal'. Most importantly, effective use of your wish list requires you to have prepared a good, solid and creative wish list in the first place.

With this in mind, here are Scotwork's seven tips for creating the ultimate negotiation wish list in your next deal:

1. Prepare your wish list in advance
It's our experience that generating truly creative and valuable wish list items in the heat of a negotiation or during quick adjournments is challenging. Prepare your wish list well in advance. It's not a good look to be sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper, chewing on a pencil just before an important negotiation commences. If you (and your team) are negotiating similar deals on a regular basis, then a generic wish list will overcome the inefficiency of reinventing a complete wish list every time. However, you need to hone and refine the list regularly and supplement the generic items with a few that may be particularly relevant to the other party.

2. Hold a wish list brainstorming session
Gather your team and unleash their creative energy to come up with as many wish list items as possible-good, bad or ugly. Just get them up there on the wall. Quite often what you perceive to be a half-baked or silly idea can lead to a stroke of genius! There are a variety of robust creative processes you can use, either individually or as a team. Although as you'd expect, you'll probably come up with more ideas in a team environment. And remember the rules of good brainstorming: practice before you address the main task, when generating items you should insist on no debate, no criticism and no censorship. You want as many ideas as possible at this stage, however whacky they may seem.

So how can you truly liberate those creative ideas during wish list generation? One method is to imagine that you are all powerful in the negotiation. You are the sole supplier or buyer and are holding all the cards. Imagine you have a greenfield site and are looking at a fresh contract. What could you ask for in such a setting? Visualise the situation that would occur in this utopian world. Is it half the workers doing double the work for two thirds of the pay? Using visual imagery is often more creative than just using words. You can supplement this with the vigorous techniques employed by creative thinkers like Edward De Bono. Don't limit yourself to conventional thinking and what you perceive to be realistic or practical. You'll have time to refine the list later.

3. Look outside your team
Investigate if other teams in your organisation such as finance, logistics, legal, etc. can contribute items to your wish list. Would it benefit your company to adjust the payment terms or invoicing frequency? To vary the delivery schedule? Reduce legal risk by removing a clause from their standard agreement? There are often great wish list items that may not directly benefit your KPIs, but will generate substantial benefit for your organisation as a whole. Add them to your list.

4. Identify your Killer Wish List items
Once you and your team have devised your lists of ideas, bring them all together-it's time to refine and consolidate them. What you are seeking are items that are low cost to the other party and but high value to you. Prioritise items which are in different 'currencies' from your main issues. These make for perfect wish list items. A good example could be an active referral where your client actually recommends you and your product or service to a colleague and agrees to organise the first meeting. Simple endorsements or an agreement to include their company logo in your promotional literature for a time can also add value for you.

5. Don't ignore the other party
When reviewing your wish list items, try to think about what negotiating variables the other side would like included in the agreement. In doing so you may come across items that are low cost to you but high value to them or wish list items which could add value for both parties. Again, these should be at the top of your wish list. An example could be an invitation to be a keynote speaker at a seminar conducted by your client. This represents great value to you since appearing on the same platform with notable experts provides you with enormous credibility and provides a platform to address potential clients. From the other party's point of view, completing their speaker panel with your high-quality offering will bring additional value to the event and reflect well on them.

6. The longer the wish list the better
Longer wish lists enable more flexibility. Scotwork course alumni will remember our example of the 'Conference Organiser' wish list which had 120+ items on it. Remember, you won't use your full wish list all the time. The more choice and flexibility you have, the better equipped you are to respond to a trading opportunity.

7. Beware wish list creep
Don't lose sight that wish list items are, by definition, not crucial to the deal. There can be a temptation, particularly when you've been preparing for a long time, for wish list items to creep up in importance. What should be a 'nice to have' becomes a 'want to have' or perhaps even a 'must have'. The inherent dangers are obvious. Before you enter into the negotiation, give your preparation agenda an honest and frank reality check to ensure none of your wish list items have crept up into your opening position. Reflect back on the preparation agenda and how to ensure you're always well prepared for a negotiation. Never endanger a deal by chasing a wish list item. Hopefully, you remember our advice on how and where to pitch your opening proposals.


A guide to using your wish list.
As those of you who have completed one of our negotiating courses have learned and practiced with us, the wish list has multiple uses in the negotiating process. It is the negotiator's equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife. A swiss army knife is something you wish you had when you're not carrying it, and the same can be said about a wish list when you are in the thick of negotiation. Wish list items can be used to improve the deal when things are going your way, to respond to pressure or demands from the other party, to get around their inhibitions, and in a number of other strategies we covered on the program, such as the OUT OF BOUNDS technique.

If you have yet to experience the Scotwork Advanced Negotiation Skills program, or feel you would benefit from a refresher course to update your skills, book your place now.

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