Entering a negotiation without a clear list of what you want is like driving cross-country without a map. To negotiate well, you must first know your agenda. There is no better way than to write it down.
Step back, and think about your deal. Brainstorm: List what you want, and list what you don't want. Be specific. Then, group and prioritize these items into categories--points you must have, those you'd really like to have and those that are insignificant. Find a friend or colleague to be a sounding board, or consult a professional or other resource to learn what is customary in a transaction like yours.
This advice may seem trite, but don't skip it. It's surprisingly powerful. For one thing, your checklist will keep you from missing a key deal term or concession. It also lays out your bottom line. But even more important, having specific goals will give you the focus, energy and self-confidence to negotiate on your terms. In business, attitude can be everything. The strength that comes from knowing what you want will give you power when you sit down at the negotiating table.
A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.