As the Super Bowl is now in our rear view mirror, we can reflect on the two teams that participated. How did these teams survive the gauntlet of both the regular season and the playoffs in order to reach the Super Bowl? The answer is strategy, preparation and execution.

These are the same key elements required for any successful negotiation. Let’s examine each process a little more closely.

Strategy: First and foremost, you have to have a strategic plan in order to achieve your goals. This step seems obvious, but think of the strategy as the blueprint for your success. Similar to the Super Bowl, a well-thought-out strategy will keep focus on the end game results. When creating your strategy, think of the letters “NFL”. N is for nimble, F is for focus and L is for lineup.

Nimble: A “super strategy” will be nimble enough to allow for modifications as changes will be required during your negotiations. Just as a good coach makes halftime game plan adjustments, a well-structured strategy will enable you to react to each situation.

Focused: Have you and your team established your “must haves” and “nice to haves?” More importantly, does your team understand the difference? Every objective can’t have the same importance to your organization. It’s vitally important to know this ranking as you enter your negotiations.

Lineup: In order to get to the Super Bowl, each and every member of the team has to understand both the strategy and their role in that strategy, otherwise the game will be over by half time! This is also true for the negotiations team. Before you put your lineup into negotiations, each team member has to understand both their role and their impact on the overall strategy.

Preparation: Just as the Super Bowl has playoffs to determine the participants, your organization’s sourcing activities via a request for proposal (RFP), should have narrowed the field down to those key suppliers to focus on. What makes this supplier desirable in your organization’s estimation? Is the supplier a market leading company? Are there other suppliers that can perform the same services?

Part of the preparation is not only to understand your own needs thoroughly, but also to understand what’s important to the other party. Each team view game films on their opponents in order to gain a deeper understanding on the other team’s tendencies. What does the other team do when faced by a particular situation? This brings up an important point. How is your organization viewed by the supplier? Is your organization a marquee account? The answers to these questions will enable you and your team to focus on executing your strategy.

Execution: Without execution, strategy and preparation are meaningless. A good strategy without follow through are just words on a blackboard. If a block is missed, then the runner is tackled for a loss. If your team members don’t follow through on your “must have” items in the negotiations, then you will be undermining your initial strategy for the project.

Now, I am utilizing the Super Bowl example in dramatic fashion here in order to draw out the parallels in understanding the negotiation preparation points. But, in a real life negotiation scenario, you have to be careful to not view the negations as only a win-lose situation. Remember, the supplier will hopefully become a long-term strategic partner!