When we’re preparing for negotiations and we feel that the client has the upper hand, we often find ourselves considering how much we’re willing to concede. However, this is the wrong approach, and it may end badly for us. Instead of analysing what we are and aren’t willing to give up, it’s worth first thinking about the consequences of not reaching an agreement. Searching for the possible alternatives to a lack of agreement and choosing the best option as a point of reference to the result of the negotiations is an important factor in their success. This is called BATNA, or ‘best alternative to negotiated agreement’.

Success in negotiations? Don’t start without BATNA

The BATNA concept first appeared in the industry literature in 1981, in the book Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The authors’ ‘win-win’ approach continues to inspire people looking for long-term benefits in negotiations. The BATNA concept serves as the foundation for preparing for difficult situations or total disagreement in negotiations.

My BATNA, step-by-step

What determines success in negotiations? How should I prepare for effective negotiations? In the life of a salesperson or a negotiator, these questions appear every day. However, it’s most difficult to negotiate with people who - at least in our estimation - have the upper hand. That happens when we are concerned that the disproportionate strength of the other party will affect the result of the negotiation. For example, if we’re negotiating a purchase agreement with a large company that dictates market prices, we focus almost exclusively on getting the best price for us. Our approach will be more effective if we consider the consequences of a total lack of agreement. We need to know when we should say no, and we should have a Plan B ready if the negotiations don’t go well. If we don’t, we may get too involved in reaching agreement and, as a result, assess the other party’s negotiating proposal too optimistically. A full awareness of the available alternatives in the event that there is no agreement and choosing the best possible option as a realistic scenario for unsuccessful negotiations can actually strengthen our negotiating position.

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