BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) Woman tears agreement documents in front of agent who wants to get a signature

Why You Need Better than BATNA: Formulating a Defensible “Walk Away” Rationale in Negotiations

Either through becoming emotionally invested, getting pressure from leadership or being unable to analyze key factors that should indicate retreat, business negotiators often find themselves spending long amounts of time on deals of diminishing — or even illusory — value.

One of the cornerstones of negotiation theory is BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), advanced by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON) in their book, Getting to YES. Read more

Further Thoughts on the “Master/Servant” Dynamic in Negotiation

In January I penned this post about the new plateaus of opportunity that open up for both buyers and sellers when we make the mindset shift to becoming a true strategic partner, rather than just a “run and fetch” vendor that recites features and delivers quotes.

There is a fundamental problem (one that is not necessarily limited to contract negotiators): Even people who build long, otherwise successful careers in demanding positions don’t consider themselves professional negotiators — even though they do it every day! They do it internally with their colleagues, externally with clients and vendors, and even at home. Read more

Breaking the Master/Servant Sales Relationship

There is a world of difference between being a vendor that takes orders and being a valued peer or co-strategist. The former defaults to a defensive or reactive position, missing opportunities to help their client, increase the value of an account and build a more durable, mutually profitable relationship.

Moving from the master/servant paradigm isn’t about gaining the upper hand in a brute power scenario, but rather about moving to a peer-to-peer relationship where mutual benefit flows from mutual respect and acknowledgment of exchanged value. From our experience, the master/servant trap is an easy one to fall into, even with some of the world’s top-tier service organizations. After all, if the customer orders, the vendor sells and delivers. Read more

Negotiation Mistakes: Misguided Integrity

negotiation integrityNegotiating with integrity is central to the Win Wisely™ approach; after all, if we are in search of positive leverage to artfully move the other side closer to our way of thinking, we must have integrity. Integrity gives us the foundation to make value arguments that are believable. When we are perceived as people who constantly play games with the truth and are slippery during discussion of the challenges, our leverage predictably erodes.

However, there are situations in which being too forthright needlessly damages your position and erodes your leverage as surely as being untruthful would. Imagine that you are negotiating with a manufacturer whose specialty component is critical to your upcoming product. The week before, you dismissed an alternative provider after lengthy negotiations, leaving this manufacturer in the “sole provider” position. Read more

When Emotions Compromise Your Negotiation Leverage

Successful businesspeople like to think of themselves as rational beings that apply thorough analysis to get optimal outcomes. Of course, this is not always the case. We’re humans, not optimizing machines: We’re biased towards doing business with people we like and trust; we succumb to pride when a calmer perspective would have yielded a better outcome for everybody; we get emotionally invested in a deal and can lose focus of its true merits.

It is easy to become emotionally invested in a deal, especially a complex one that has required a large time and resource commitment from you and your team. Nobody wants to simply walk away from something they have cultivated for months—even when the rationale for actually doing the deal starts to dwindle. Read more

To Close the Deal, Know Your Client’s Risks and Articulate the Cost of Not Acting

In 2013, CSO Insights published an industry survey summarizing deals won and lost—in this instance, how often forecasts lined up with actual closed deals. Of the number of total forecasted deals, 26% were lost due to “no decision.”

Many “no decisions” can be traced to a seller’s inability to address how their potential client sees risk and the failure to paint a compelling picture of the cost of not acting. In our sales and negotiation training seminars, we teach sellers how to prepare and increase their chances of a win by carefully considering risk and reward from the buyer’s perspective. Traditionally, sellers focus primarily on the reward/benefit/value to the buyer of completing a deal. The risk/reward exercise has a dual value: By convincing yourself, you increase your odds of convincing your buyer. If you don’t believe it, they won’t, either. Plus, it sheds specific light on the risk of no decision. Read more

Balancing Your Negotiation Team: If Everyone Agrees, Someone is Probably Wrong

Just as you don’t want to take to the field with a football team of 11 quarterbacks (or 11 goalkeepers, if you’re playing the more globally known form of football), you would not want a negotiation team that only represents one discipline or perspective. Although Peyton Manning or Cristiano Ronaldo each has enviable skills, other specialists will be needed to secure victory for the team.

We once worked on an important licensing negotiation with a client team comprised of architects and engineers in product development. Their goal was to fill a technical gap in their product. They were willing to pay an amount for the license that was equal to the cost of developing the solution themselves. But with no one on the team from sales, marketing or finance, there was no way for them to gauge what filling this functional gap in the product was worth to their business. Read more

Negotiation Lessons from Deadwood

Have you ever appeared at the negotiation table with a thoughtful list of offerings only to realize that your assumptions about those across the table were dead wrong? There’s a scene from HBO’s acclaimed Deadwood series (2004-2006) that illustrates just how uncomfortable it can be to misread or underestimate the other party.

To set the scene: Alma Garret is a widow who has come into a lucrative, well-producing gold claim in the lawless, titular town of Deadwood. Mining tycoon, George Hearst, has come to the camp, slowly consolidating smaller, single-operator claims into one ruthlessly efficient operation. Only Garret’s mine stands in the way of his complete control of the area’s gold mining operations. Hoping to strike a mutually beneficial bargain after a bumpy first meeting, Garret visits Hearst with a list of proposals. This is what happens. Read more

Misusing Leverage: The High Cost of a Short-Term Negotiation “Win”

Do repeat business assumptions count in your business plan? If so, the way you conduct your negotiations takes on much greater importance.

Some view negotiation as a series of devious games and ego contests conducted to gain advantage by keeping the other side continuously off balance, intimidated or flustered. We find this approach to negotiation quite short-sighted if your “win” leaves the other side angry, resentful and questioning your credibility. Who wants to do more business with someone who makes them feel as if they have been bullied or tricked? The logical response will be to aggressively seek an alternative the next time around, whether you are a buyer, seller or “business partner.” That doesn’t sound like much of a win to us. Read more

The Best Way to Manage Mistakes at the Business Negotiation Table

Imagine that you are in a sales negotiation. As part of your services, you will create a solution for an inventory problem that your customer is having. In the middle of the negotiation, a member of your team tells you that this solution can only be implemented manually, which will drive up the cost $250,000. What do you do?

  1. Omit the solution in the next agreement draft and hope the other side forgets the whole thing.
  2. Tell the other side that you’ve made a mistake, but you will absorb the cost of the additional $250,000 since it was your mistake.
  3. Immediately notify the other side, apologize for this mistake, and tell them that if the solution is still of value to them, $250,000 will have to be added to the price.
  4. Say nothing and eat the additional $250,000.
  5. Keep silent. Add the $250,000 to the price and address the issue at the very end, and only if the customer brings it up.

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