You know that negotiations can fail without external preparation. Without external research and due diligence, you shouldn’t be in the game.

But, a much less talked about and much less executed amount of internal work must be done to significantly increase your chances of negotiating success. It’s far too often skimped on or avoided.

Few are willing to do what it takes to prepare internally. It seems easier to use the shortcut, tip, tactic, or technique to win, but the lack of internal preparation causes negotiations to fail.


First, consider your objectives. What are your true motivations, and what are the limiting beliefs, fears, or other emotions that might hold you back? Take the time and do the hard internal work to address these.


When preparing for an important negotiation, define your true bottom line. It’s very easy to look at it in terms of money—”I won’t take less than x dollars.” But it actually applies to every term in the negotiation, and those terms may not all be monetary. For example, some terms might include the delivery time of the product, how you’ll get paid, or how long you’ll stay on as an employee. The true bottom line can apply to every single term in the deal.

You don’t need to waste your time establishing your bottom line for every minor point, but for the major points, it is crucial that to know what your true bottom line is. When it comes to true bottom lines, people may not be fully connected to the truth, so they lie to themselves and to their advisors all the time. You want to make sure your goalposts don’t move in the midst of a negotiation.

How can you define your true bottom line in a meaningful way and stick to it? Here’s a great example: Take the assertion, “I won’t work for more than two years.” Okay, but will you work for two years and a day? Two years and two days? It must be “not a day more, not a penny less.” In addition to determining the bottom line on each deal term, you should rank them by priority and determine how they relate to each other.

This defining exercise is tremendously useful because it brings your goals into sharp focus. Without knowing your true bottom line, you can never achieve clarity at the level you must have to significantly increase your chances of success in a negotiation.


If somebody or a team is negotiating on your behalf, don’t withhold your true bottom line from them out of fear. There is a better way. In a deal of any significance, where you have a lawyer or an investment banker or other professional negotiating on your behalf, you must be fully honest in order for that person to properly represent you. If you don’t trust somebody enough to give them your true bottom line, then you need to look for someone else to work with whom you can trust.

How do you stand in the way of your own objectives? Have you ever defined your true bottom line, and ranked factors in order of importance?