The Secret To Using Multiple Offers In A Negotiation

Using multiple offers just might save your next negotiation
Using multiple offers just might save your next negotiation
Image Credit: George W. Bush Presidential Center

How many times have this happened to you? You are in a negotiation and you’ve used all of your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques and you have just about exhausted all of the offers that you can make to the other side. The other side may have also made a number of offers, none of which really appealed to you. What’s a negotiator do to now? The good news is that you still have at least one trick left up your sleeve: MESOs.

Say Hello To MESOs

So just exactly what are MESOs? A strategy in business negotiation that is known as MESOs, which stands for multiple equivalent simultaneous offers, may help you break through your deadlock and find common ground. The thinking goes like this, 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. In addition, using MESOs allows you to be both respected and liked. Research has shown that negotiators who use MESOs achieved better outcomes than those who make a single packaged offer, without sacrificing the negotiating relationship or losing credibility.

The challenge that we face as negotiators is that we need to learn how to identify MESOs. When preparing to deliver MESOs in a negotiation, you need to create a type of scoring system that allows you to compare qualitatively different issues. You can begin by tracking your priorities on the various issues at stake using a spreadsheet. Decide how important each issue is to you and then assign it a relative weight. Next, assess the options available to you within each issue. Finally, assign points to each option to reflect your preferences.

With some simple math, using this system you can figure out the total value to you of any given package. 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. This will allow you to present your MESOs and be confident that you will be satisfied if the other side chooses any one of them. Additionally the negotiations can move forward if the other side chooses a particular package to negotiate with you on further.

How To Use MESOs In A Negotiation

Why should a business negotiator typically include three offers in their MESOs? Research has found that 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. Your first package of MESOs should be 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? 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. In this manner, 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. The MESOs approach succeeds because it takes both parties’ interests into account and, in the process, improves negotiators’ outcomes and satisfaction.

Negotiators do need to be cautious when using MESOs. Since MESOs contain ample information about your interests, 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. A savvy counterpart 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. Remember that 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

Sometimes when we are involved in a principled negotiation, things can start to grind to a halt. We’ve made offers to the other side that have been rejected and perhaps they have made offers to us that we have rejected. Now what to do? It turns out that all may not be lost. We still have another tactic that we can try. MESOs.

MESO stands for multiple equivalent simultaneous offers. When multiple offers are made to the other side, the thinking is that they will be able to find one that best meets their needs. As negotiators we need to learn how to create MESOs that will meet our needs before we present them to the other side. If the other side rejects all of the offers in a MESO, then the negotiator can work with them to find out what parts of what deals do appeal to them. Negotiators need to be careful and not disclose too much information, allow cherry picking from different offers, or overwhelm the other side with too many offers.

Negotiators always have to have something that they can turn to when a negotiation is not going the way that we want it to. Having MESOs that we can present to the other side allows us to show them that we are serious about reaching a deal with them. Multiple offers boost our chances of finding a deal that will meet the needs of both sides. The next time that you want to reach a deal with the other side, try using a MESO and see what happens!

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

Question For You: When creating MESOs, how many should you make even if you only present three at a time?

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