Just Exactly How Do You Use A BATNA During A Negotiation?

Negotiators need to know what they can do with a BATNA
Image Credit: Kari Nousiainen

In order to be successful during your next negotiation, you are going to have to make sure that you use all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are available to you. One of the most powerful tools that we all go into a negotiation with is our Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Knowing that you have one of these is a critical factor in being able to be successful in your next negotiation. However, just knowing about it is not enough. You also have to know how to use it during a negotiation.

Know Your BATNA

Negotiators need to know when to walk away in a negotiation. Of all of the information that we may bring to a negotiating table, this is some of the most powerful. A negotiator should always know their BATNA or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

When we are involved in a negotiation, we are always going to want to make sure that we know how best to make use of our BATNA. This is a powerful tool that can help us get what we want out of our next negotiation. However, in order to make the best use of it a negotiator needs to fully understand how to go about using it during a negotiation. The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple as long as you can remember three techniques for maximizing the value of a BATNA.

How To Use Your BATNA

First, you need to make sure that you take the time to clarify the other side’s authority. Before you begin your negotiation, ask the other side (and their superiors if necessary) to clarify the extent to which they are empowered as an agent in the negotiation to make proposals and commitments on behalf of their organization. Though negotiators often must clear significant decisions with their higher-ups, the other side should at least know the subject matter of the negotiations well enough to be able to make provisional commitments. Be willing to reveal your own negotiating mandate in return when you are asked.

Next. You will need to consider adding negotiators to the negotiations. This means that before or during the bargaining process, it may become apparent that the other side was appointed not because of their qualifications but because of their lack of them—that is, out of a deliberate intention to obfuscate or mislead. If you believe this to be the case, ask to bring in someone who has more relevant expertise and greater decision-making authority. Keep in mind that your overall goal here is to reach a deal with the other side, not just to appear as though you are the better negotiator.

Finally, you always have to know when to walk away – make sure that you know your BATNA. As an example, suppose your efforts to bring a more knowledgeable negotiator to the table fail. At this point, it may be time to consider your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA—specifically, you might want to consider dealing with a different organization in order to reach a deal that you could live with. What if you were unable to cultivate good outside alternatives to further your objectives? Try to build relationships with others in your counterpart’s organization with the goal of working around the obstacle and building a coalition that may support your proposals.

What All Of This Means For You

Having a strong BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) is a key tool that every negotiator wants to have in their pocket before they walk into their next principled negotiation. However, having a BATNA is never enough. A good negotiator needs to know how to go about using their BATNA in order to reach the deal that they want. What we need to know are the three techniques to maximizing the value of your BATNA.

During a negotiation, you will want to make sure that the person that you are negotiating with has the authority to reach a deal with you. If you have to, you can double check with their superiors in order to make sure that any agreements that they make will be binding on the other side. You may also think about adding additional negotiators to the discussions – on the other side. If it becomes apparent that the person that you are negotiating with is not capable of reaching an agreement with you, then you will need to have the other side add more negotiators. Having (and knowing) a BATNA means that you will always have to be willing to walk away from the deal that you are working on. Make sure that you have options both inside of the other side’s organization and outside of it.

Every time that we enter into a negotiation, our goal has to be to find a way to reach a deal with the other side that both of us can live with. However, as a negotiator you need to make sure that you always know what your BATNA is. This will provide you with a powerful tool that you can use to move the negotiations along in the direction that you want them to go. Knowing how best to use your BATNA can positon you well to make your next negotiation be a success!

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

Question For You: How would you go about getting the other side to bring in more negotiators if you thought that they needed them?

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