What Is The Bottom Line In A Negotiation?

by drjim on March 13, 2015

To get what you want from a negotiation, you need to know what your bottom line is

To get what you want from a negotiation, you need to know what your bottom line is
Image Credit: Laura Gilmore

You would think that when we start a negotiation that we’d know what we wanted to accomplish no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques were being used. However, all too often this is not the case. What seems to trip us up is not having a clear understanding of just exactly what our “bottom line” is. We think that we know, but we really don’t. What can we do to make sure that we know what our bottom line is before we start our next negotiation?

How To Find Out What Your Bottom Line Is

If you are going to have a clear understanding of just exactly what your bottom line is the next time that you enter into a negotiation, then perhaps we should all agree on exactly what a bottom line is in the first place. In a negotiation, “the bottom line” refers to the total value of the negotiation. You, of course, always want to be looking for ways to increase it.

All too often novice negotiators spend a great deal of time trying to determine the true financial value of each of the items that are being negotiated. Their thinking is that if they can understand how much something will either cost or how much it will generate, then they’ll have a better handle on its impact on their bottom line. The thinking is sound, but flawed.

What we all need to realize as negotiators is that in order to be successful, we are going to have to expand our definition of what the bottom line in our next negotiation is. We can’t just limit ourselves to the financial value of the deal; we’ve got to take a much bigger picture of what the bottom line includes.

How To Use Your Bottom Line To Get What You Want

In order to be a successful negotiator, there are a lot of different things that we need to do. We need to start out by setting goals, making sure that we understand what path we’re going to have to take in order to reach our goals, and finally we need to have a good understanding of what it means to actually reach those goals.

What all of this means is that to have a successful negotiation means a lot more than just reaching the numbers that we wanted. There are often a great number of other people who are either involved in the deal that we are trying to put together or who will ultimately be impacted by it. We need to take the time to consider the ramifications of our deal to them.

What the really great negotiators understand is that the bottom line of the negotiation is not “their” bottom line. Rather, it is a bottom line that will be shared by everyone who is involved in the negotiation. What this means for you is that when you take the time to define what really matters to you in a negotiation, then you’ll also be defining what really matters to the other people who will be impacted by the deal also.

What All Of This Means For You

I’m hoping that it goes without saying that there is no way that you’re going to be able to get what you want out of your next principled negotiation if you don’t know what your bottom line is. Most of us think that we know what our bottom line is; however, when push comes to shove, all too often it turns out that we don’t know.

What we need to do is to take the time to find out what our bottom line really is. Our bottom line ultimately has to be related to some sort of vision that we have that we are trying to transform into a reality – why are you negotiating? Once we know and understand what our bottom line is, we need to be prepared to use it. We need to take the time to define what really matters to us and with a little luck we’ll be able to define what really matters to the other side also.

Knowledge is power. In a negotiation, knowledge of just exactly what your bottom line is can be a powerful tool that will help you to get what you really want to get out of the negotiations. Take the time to make sure that you have a good understanding of where your bottom line really lies.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that your bottom line can change during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are involved in a negotiation, just exactly where should our focus be? I mean, we enter into the negotiation with a very clear understanding of what kind of deal we’d like to be able to walk away from the negotiations with, but what happens during the negotiation? Perhaps even more importantly, what happens to the other side – where is their focus?

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