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BATNA: What is it and how will it help you negotiate?

Negotiation Tips with Mark Gordon
Lesson #2: ‘BATNA’ & Striving for a Win-Win

Whether negotiating a new salary, asking for a pay rise or trying to close out an important deal for your company, there are some key principles that you can use to guide you time and time again. 

Mark Gordon, author of ‘The Point of the Deal: how to negotiate when yes is not enough’ and Partner at Vantage Partners Negotiation Consulting, shares his top strategies for getting the deal done. 


BATNA: What is it & how can it help your negotiation strategy?

BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement” and is a concept developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation.  It is about having an alternative that can be turned to if you do not reach agreement with the other side. Take the time to sit down and map out this alternative route as it can act as a barometer of how good your negotiated deal terms really are.

You should never say “yes” to your counterpart unless what they are offering is better than your BATNA. You should say “yes” to their offer if, at the end of the day”, it is better than your BATNA— even a bad offer is better for you than saying “no”, if it is better than your BATNA.

If you can make your BATNA better, or make their BATNA worse, you will have more leverage and power in negotiation. But, beware…talking about your BATNA will often be seen as a threat and may damage your relationship with the other side, so play your BATNA carefully if you want an ongoing relationship with the other side.


Always strive for win-win

All the empirical evidence shows that “win/win” approaches will usually lead to better outcomes and more value creation for both sides.

Interests fall into three buckets:

a: Consistent (e.g. we both want to close the deal quickly)

b: Different: (e.g. there are slight differences of approach but potential middle ground)

c: Conflicting: (e.g. polar opposite wants)


Using a “win/win” approach will likely create more value in dealing with consistent and differing interests, but it may be hard to get to good options with conflicting interests.

It is usually useful to start with a “win/win” framework to see if there is a way to “expand the overall pie” – a broader agreement that allows both parties to walk away with a good outcome. However, you should recognise that in most negotiations, there are some issues that are “zero sum” where more value/benefit for one side creates more cost/risk for the other side, and it is impossible to create “win/win” results for some issues.

You should also recognise that some counterparts do not see the mutual benefits of “win/win” and see all negotiations as “win/lose”, and it will be difficult to get them to change their approach.

Click here for Mark’s Lesson #1 on Approach & Tone:

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