Bring The Power Of MESOs To Your Next Negotiation

Making multiple offers is often better than just making one offer
Making multiple offers is often better than just making one offer
Image Credit: Wei Han Frank Lin

As negotiators we all know that it is all too easy for a negotiation to come to a grinding halt. You and the other side have exchanged a series of offers and counteroffers, and you’ve met somewhere close to the middle—but not close enough. At this point, each side is firmly rooted in its position and there may seem to be no way forward no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you choose to use. Negotiators understand that this is when it helps to know how to use MESOs in a negotiation.

MESOs are a strategy in business negotiation. MESO stands for “multiple equivalent simultaneous offers”. It may help you break through your deadlock and find common ground. When you present more than one offer at a time to the other side, 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 by the other side. Negotiators who use MESOs are to achieve better outcomes than those who make a single packaged offer, without sacrificing the relationship or losing credibility.

What Is The Best Way To Identify MESOs?

As you are preparing to use MESOs in a negotiation, you need to create an internal scoring system that allows you to compare qualitatively different issues. As an example, if you were a job candidate preparing to present MESOs to a prospective employer, these might include compensation, location, and vacation days. When using MESOs, you can begin your priorities on the various issues at stake on a spreadsheet. Take the time to decide how important each issue is to you and then assign it a relative weight. If you were a job candidate, compensation might be worth 50% of the pie, location 30%, and vacation days 20%.

Your next step is to assess the options available to you within each issue. The job candidate would view your possible compensation as potentially ranging from $120,000 to $150,000. This person’s choice of job locations might include London, New York, and Chicago. Finally, their vacation time might range from two to four weeks. The last step is to assign points to each option to reflect your preferences. For the job candidate, 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.

Using this approach, you can figure out the total value to you of any given package, with each package including all three issues. The 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 pleasing to you. At the same time you can present your MESOs and be confident that you will be satisfied if the other side chooses any one of them (or chooses a particular package to negotiate further).

Rules For Using MESOs

The magic number when dealing with MESOs is three. This leads to the question of why should a negotiator typically include three offers in their MESOs? It turns out that a package of three equivalent, simultaneous offers helps you acquire valuable information from the other side without overwhelming them with too many options. If you present the offers together, you’ll highlight your flexibility while letting the other side note the differences among them.

Keep in mind that your first package of MESOs should be more aggressive than your negotiation objective, or ideal outcome. You will know that you value each offer equally; however, don’t reveal this information to the other side. Instead, 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? Encourage them to indicate which offer most closely meets their priorities or best accounts for their constraints, clarifying that this does not bind them to accept one of the offers as a final agreement.

By proceeding this way 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. Additionally, through MESOs, you can detect whether they might be misrepresenting their perspective or inadvertently overstating their position. The MESOs approach succeeds because it takes both parties’ interests into account and, in the process, improves negotiators’ outcomes and satisfaction.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiators need to understand three notes of caution concerning MESOs. First, because MESOs contain ample information about your interests, you need to counterbalance such disclosures by anchoring your offers to your advantage. Make sure that all your offers are ones that exceed your negotiation objective or ideal outcome to allow some wiggle room for further negotiation.

Second, the other side may try to cherry-pick the best elements of each proposal to create a new deal that works against you. If they do this, 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 for this principled negotiation, avoid presenting more than three offers at a time.

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

Question For You: If the other side rejects all three of your MESOs, what’s the best way to find out what parts of them they do like?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Negotiators always have to deal with the simple fact that a negotiation is never over, until it’s over. What this means is that it is possible that after months of negotiation and the use of a wide variety of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, you reach a detailed agreement with the other side and shake hands. You are all done, right? Well, maybe not. A week later, the other side’s procurement officer calls to tell you that there have to be some “revisions” to the deal. Perhaps they expect you to deliver the same service package faster than agreed upon and for less money. This happens after you’ve lined up resources internally and gotten commitments from your own vendors. In a situation like this, you end up trying to make the new deal work, since you can’t afford to lose these key customers. What can a negotiator do when this issue pops up?