What Is The Best Way To Use A BATNA During A Negotiation?

Know the bargaining tips that will help you make the most of your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.
Know the bargaining tips that will help you make the most of your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.
Image Credit: Haifeez

If we want to become better negotiators, how can we go about doing this? It turns out that the best bargaining tips should offer ways to enhance your bargaining power in negotiation no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. If we want to make this happen, then we must cultivate a strong BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. As you can well imagine, the more appealing your best alternative is, the more comfortable you will feel asking for more in your current negotiation – you will be secure in the knowledge that you have a good alternative option waiting in the wings. BATNA development is more complex than just searching for a good Plan B. Let’s talk about bargaining tips and strategies for negotiators seeking to improve their BATNA.

Two BATNAs Are Better Than One BATNA

As your next negotiation starts, you may think you’ve identified a strong BATNA for your position, but keep in mind that it’s subject to change. Things in life are always changing. As an example, if you were negotiating for a new job, you may show up with a good job offer in your back pocket, but what if the person who offered it leaves the firm? As negotiators we need to realize that BATNAs can fall through. Since we know this, we then have to take the time to cultivate at least two or three of them just to be safe.

Don’t Let The Other Side Know That You Have A Weak BATNA

Every BATNA that you come up with is going to be different. You will sometimes get lucky and have a very strong BATNA. However, there will also be times that you find yourself with a weak BATNA. Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try to develop a strong BATNA, you may be unable to do so in a given negotiating situation. When you find yourself with a weak BATNA, be careful not to reveal the weak BATNA your counterpart. Additionally, avoid appearing desperate to close a deal quickly or conveying that you can meet anytime, anywhere. All of these actions will send the wrong signals to the other side.

Don’t Let The Other Side Say Bad Things About Your BATNA

A BATNA is as powerful as you think that it is. What this means is that you need to make sure that you don’t allow anyone to try to change your perception of how strong your BATNA is. One thing that is fairly common in a negotiation occurs when the other side starts to get a sense of just how strong your BATNA is. When this happens, they may start to attempt to diminish its value. What you need to keep in mind is that the other side has a vested interest in making you think poorly of your BATNA – make sure that you don’t fall for such tricks.

Research the Other Party’s BATNA

As though you didn’t think that just figuring out what your BATNA is was hard enough, it turns out that you also have to take the time to find out what the other side’s BATNA is. Your knowledge of your own BATNA will only take you so far; you also need to identify your counterpart’s BATNA. You can always ask the other side what their BATNA is; however, you need to expect them to exaggerate the strength of their BATNA.

Assess “Two-level” BATNAs

When we enter into a negotiation, it can be all too easy to forget who we are really negotiating with. It turns out that you’ll be negotiating with two different people. the person seated across the table from you and the organization he or she represents. It’s important to think about the incentives of the person across the table, including how the person is compensated and his or her long-term goals if you want to fully understand what their goals for this negotiation are..

Beware a Sense of Entitlement

It’s not easy to take the time to come up with a good BATNA for your next negotiation. However, after we have done this we need to understand that we may have just created a problem for ourselves. When negotiators work hard to cultivate good alternatives, they may feel as if they wasted their time if they don’t have to turn to their BATNA during a negotiation. Negotiators who forego a strong BATNA tend to feel a sense of entitlement that can lead them to have high aspirations – and it can also lead them to engage in unethical behavior, such as lying or misrepresenting information to the other side. You can avoid this temptation by reminding yourself that in negotiation, BATNA development is a something that you have to do instead of a cost that needs to be recouped.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the most important things that a negotiator needs to equip himself or herself with before going into their next principled negotiation is a strong BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Once you have a BATNA, you need to fully understand how best to use it during the negotiations. The following tips will show you how to go about doing this.

During a negotiation things can change. If something that you based your BATNA on changes, then you may find yourself in a difficult situation. You need to come prepared with multiple BATNAs just in case. If the best BATNA you can come up with is a weak BATNA, don’t let the other side know this. As negotiators we need to realize that we are negotiating with two groups: the negotiator in the room and whomever they work for. Make sure that you understand everyone’s goals. Just because you created a BATNA does not mean that you have to use it. Be careful about how having a BATNA makes you behave during the negotiation.

One of the most powerful things that any negotiator can have at their side is a BATNA. This allows us to conduct a negotiation knowing that we don’t need this deal, we have an alternative. However, we need to fully understand how best to use our BATNA in order to get what we really want. Use these tips to turn your BATNA into a powerful negotiating tool.

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

Question For You: Since you always need a backup to your BATNA, how many backups do you think that you really need?

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