BATNA

In negotiation, BATNA refers to your “best alternative to a negotiated agreement,” or the best outcome you can expect if you fail to reach agreement at the bargaining table with your counterpart. An evaluation of your BATNA is critical if you are to establish the threshold at which you will reject an offer. Effective negotiators determine their BATNAs before talks begin.

When you fail to determine your alternative, you’re liable to make a costly mistake—rejecting a deal you should have accepted or accepting one you’d have been wise to reject. In negotiation, it’s important to have high aspirations and to fight hard for a good outcome. But it’s just as critical to establish a walkaway point that is firmly grounded in reality.

There are four steps to assessing your BATNA: List your alternatives; evaluate these alternatives; establish your BATNA based on these alternatives; and calculate your reservation value, which is the lowest-valued deal you are willing to accept. If the value of the deal proposed to you is lower than your reservation value, you’ll be better off rejecting the offer and pursuing your BATNA. If the final offer is higher than your reservation value, you should accept it.

One drawback to exploring your best alternative is in spending too much time and money in researching it. This can lead to a feeling of entitlement in negotiation, which may cause the negotiator to expect too much from the bargaining process.

Articles offer numerous BATNA examples and explore the concept of one’s BATNA, as well as how to effectively identify your BATNA in negotiations and how to use this knowledge effectively in any type of negotiation, whether in business, international, or personal negotiations.

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Manage the tension between claiming and creating value

PON Staff   •  04/15/2014   •  Filed in BATNA

David Schwimmer, the actor who played Ross on the hit NBC sitcom Friends, famously convinced the show’s five other leads in the early years of its run to negotiate their contracts with NBC as a team. The “mini union” formed by the actors ultimately helped them negotiate an unprecedented $1 million each per episode during … Read More 

For business negotiators, patience can be a virtue

PON Staff   •  12/15/2013   •  Filed in BATNA

In negotiation, persistence and tenacity can make all the difference between impasse and a game-changing breakthrough. Take the saga behind Microsoft’s September 3 announcement of its pending $7.2 billion acquisition of Finnish mobile phone company Nokia’s handset and services business. The two parties engaged in many months of fruitless talks before either side believed that … Read More 

Searching for a Debt Ceiling: Boehner’s Uncertain BATNA

Katie Shonk   •  09/24/2013   •  Filed in BATNA

As the U.S. government approaches a potentially catastrophic default on its debt in October, President Obama remains determined to avoid negotiations with Republican leaders on the issue, the New York Times reports, a situation that leaves House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner with an uncertain BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. … Read More 

Learning from the deficit-reduction talks

PON Staff   •  03/15/2013   •  Filed in BATNA

Does anyone down there know how to cut a deal?” Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said to Vice President Joe Biden. It was Sunday, December 30, 2012, the day before the “fiscal cliff ” deadline, and the minority leader had phoned Biden out of a sense of desperation, report Patrick O’Connor and Peter Nicholas in the … Read More 

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