Several offers are generally better than just one offer

Negotiators Know How To Use MESOs To Get What They Want

Several offers are generally better than just one offer
Several offers are generally better than just one offer
Image Credit: Oliver Tacke

Let’s face it, during a negotiation things can go wrong. You were making progress using your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to work towards reaching a deal one minute and then all of a sudden you find yourself staring at an impasse. You have made offers to the other side, they have made offers to you and you thought that you were approaching middle ground; however, it now appears as though you are not close enough to agree on a deal. Now what is a negotiator to do? This might be the time for you to start to use MESOs in this negotiation.

What are MESOs?

One of the strategies that we have available to us when we are negotiating is known as MESOs, which stands for multiple equivalent simultaneous offers. This technique may help you break through your deadlock and find common ground. When you present more than one offer at a time, instead of a single offer, you are likely to increase the other side’s satisfaction while also boosting your odds of coming to an agreement. Additionally, MESOs allow you to be both respected and liked. Research has shown that negotiators who use MESOs achieved better outcomes than those who make a single offer. Using MESOs does not require you to sacrifice the relationship or lose credibility with the other side.

How A Negotiator Can Identify A MESO

When you decide to use a MESO during a negotiation, you need to create a scoring system that allows you to compare different issues. You can begin by tracking your priorities on the various issues at stake on a spreadsheet. Decide how important each issue is to you and then assign it a relative weight. For example, for a job candidate, pay might be worth 50% of the pie, location 30%, and time off 20%. Next, assess the options available to you within each issue. Your possible compensation might range from $180,000 to $200,000, for example. Your choice of job locations might include London, New York, and Chicago. Finally, your time off might range from two to four weeks. Finally, assign points to each option to reflect your preferences. For instance, if London is a much more appealing city to you than New York, London would get 100 points while New York would get only 50.

With some simple math, you can figure out the total value to you of any given package, with each package including all three issues. Your scoring system will allow you to generate MESOs, each with different components but all with roughly the same total value to you – thus making them all equally acceptable to you. Consequently, you can present your MESOs and be confident that you will be satisfied if your counterpart chooses any one of them (or chooses one particular offer to negotiate further).

How To Use MESOs During A Negotiation

Now comes the big question: what’s so special about the number three? Why should a negotiator typically include three offers in their MESOs? A package of three equivalent, simultaneous offers helps you acquire valuable information from the other party without overwhelming them with too many options. By presenting the offers together, you’ll highlight your flexibility while letting the other side note the differences among them.

When you are using MESOs, you are going to want to make your first package of MESOs more aggressive than your negotiation objective, or ideal outcome. Although you will value each offer equally, don’t reveal this information to the other side. Rather, explain that there are numerous ways to construct your deal, and ask the other side to decide which offer works best for them.

What if they say that none of the offers works for them? You are going to want to encourage them to indicate which offer most closely meets their priorities or best accounts for their constraints, clarifying that this does not require them to accept one of the offers as a final agreement.

By doing this, MESOs allow you to secure an understanding of the other side’s interests that you would be unlikely to ascertain through direct questioning. The other side’s reactions to your offers show you their priorities and the magnitude of those priorities. In addition, through MESOs, you can detect whether they might be misrepresenting their perspective or inadvertently overstating their position.

Issues To Be Aware Of When Using MESOs

You need to be aware that MESOs contain ample information about your interests. This means that you should counterbalance such disclosures by anchoring your offers to your advantage. Make sure that all your offers exceed your negotiation objective or ideal outcome to allow some wiggle room for further negotiation.

Next, a savvy other side may try to cherry-pick the best elements of each proposal to create a new deal that works against you. Respond to such attempts by using your scoring system to come up with three new offers that respond to the other side’s priorities without sacrificing your own goals.

Finally, because the abundant choices offered by MESOs could be overwhelming, avoid presenting more than three offers at a time.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators, our goal is to find a way to reach a deal with the other side. There will be situations in which we think that we’ve been making progress towards reaching a goal when all of sudden we’ll discover that we’ve run into a disagreement that we don’t have any way to overcome. Its times like this that we may need to bring in the MESOs.

During a principled negotiation, when you run into an impasse you can choose to use MESOs, which stands for multiple equivalent simultaneous offers. By presenting the other side with multiple offers, you enhance your chances of finding an offer that will meet their needs. When you decide to use a MESO you need to create a scoring system for each of the parts of the proposal. This will allow you to evaluate the other side’s selection of one of your offers and understand how well it meets your needs for this negotiation. Always present the other side with three options so as to present them with choices without overwhelming them. If they don’t like any of your options, then find out which of the three best meets their needs. When you are using MESOs you need to be careful. Don’t reveal too much information, don’t allow the other side to cherry pick features from various options and don’t present them with more then three options.

Our goal as a negotiator is to find a way to reach a deal with the other side. The way that we’re going to make this happen is by presenting them with an offer that they will be willing to accept. We can only do this by presenting them with enough offers that they can finally discover one that will meet their needs. Using MESOs as a negotiating technique is one way that we can finally find the offer will allow us to reach the deal that we want with the other side.

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

Question For You: What time during a negotiation do you think would be the best time to start to use a MESO?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So just exactly when is a negotiation over? I’m pretty sure that by now you know that this is a loaded question – a negotiation is never over. Even after we’ve been able to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach a deal with the other side, we still need to make sure that they will keep their word and do what they promised that they would do. However, things can get just a little bit trickier if after the deal has been signed the other side comes back to you. The reason that they’ve come back is because they want a renegotiation of the deal. What’s a negotiator to do now?

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