Dealmaking is defined as the art of crafting deals through negotiations focused on an integrative, or value-creating process, rather than through distributive bargaining, or a haggling process. Dealmaking includes the range of activities both at the bargaining table and away from it that seek to bring two or more parties together toward some common end, whether it is the sale of an asset, a vendor agreement, or a merger between corporations. The Program on Negotiation emphasizes integrative bargaining in its dealmaking literature and teaches methods and techniques from this school of thought in its executive education courses.

In corporate dealmaking, much of the action happens away from the negotiating table. Successful dealmakers understand that deal set-up and design greatly influence negotiation outcomes and successfully closing a deal. Other critical factors in successfully making deals include strategic behavior – the unwillingness of one or both sides to make a best offer – psychological factors, lack of a deadline, poorly-prepared formal documents and refusal to allow the other side to make a graceful exit, even when they’ve agreed to your demands.

Strategies for successful dealmaking include tactics such as creating more value by exploring hidden interests and adding issues that appeal to your bargaining opponent. Another tactic is recruiting a third party mediator when the dealmaking process is at an impasse. Sometimes, Harvard experts find, it pays to be the first person to make an offer, while at other times, it pays to wait.

Articles from the Program on Negotiation focus on a vast array of dealmaking strategies, and explore the latest concepts such as expanding the pie, “negotiauctions,” anchors in negotiation and bartering.

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How to Avoid Faulty Negotiated Agreements

PON Staff   •  10/06/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking

Some of the trickier aspects of designing the right contract with your agent include properly aligning her incentives and monitoring her work. Supervising your agent can be especially hard when she knows more than you do about the area of work. For example, hiring an agent who is a lawyer and paying her on an … Read More 

Are You in It to Win It?

PON Staff   •  04/08/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking

For the New York Mets, a deal with outfielder Yoenis Céspedes is all in the timing

Just because a deal isn’t working out in the present doesn’t mean it never will. That’s the key takeaway from a recent contract agreement reached between the New York Mets and star outfielder Yoenis Céspedes this past January.

A temporary impasse

Céspedes, … Read More 

A Bidding War at Sundance

PON Staff   •  04/08/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking

Filmmaker Nate Parker sticks to his dreams in a heated “negotiauction.”

Most sellers dream about driving up the price of a commodity in a bidding war. But how can you stay true to your nonfinancial goals in an auction fixated on price? Nate Parker, the filmmaker, star, and producer behind the film The Birth of a … Read More 

Learning from the Debates About the Debates

Katie Shonk   •  03/03/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking

There is “nothing worse than a debate about debates,” John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, recently said in the midst of his candidate’s heated negotiations with Democratic rival Bernie Sanders about the terms of their debates.

Many who participated in these negotiations would likely agree. But the debates about debates—both on the … Read More 

In The Simpsons Dealmaking, Harry Shearer Goes Public

Katie Shonk   •  01/21/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking

How did actor Henry Shearer and the producers of the hit television show The Simpsons arrive at a win-win negotiated agreement? In this article drawn from examples of negotiation in real life, we examine the negotiations between the actor and the producers and offer insights into the bargaining strategies employed by each. … Read More 

Negotiation in the News: Breaking dysfunctional patterns – The surprisingly cooperative U.S. budget deal

PON Staff   •  01/08/2016   •  Filed in Dealmaking


In negotiations with longtime counterparts, it can be difficult to overcome entrenched bad habits and past resentments. That certainly has been the case for negotiations between the U.S. Congress and the White House in recent years, which have been marked by name-calling, missed deadlines, and public ridicule. But thanks to a variety of pressures and … Read More 

To Reduce Post-Deal Regret, Take an Analytical Approach

PON Staff   •  12/09/2015   •  Filed in Dealmaking

Dissatisfied with her first book contract, comedian Amy Schumer canceled it and negotiated a different one.
A better strategy? Lessen your odds of disappointment from the start.

In 2012, David Hirshey, senior vice president and executive editor of publisher HarperCollins, saw Amy Schumer’s stand-up comedy act and was so impressed by the rising star that he offered … Read More 

Try a Game-Changing Move in Your Next “Negotiauction”

PON Staff   •  11/04/2015   •  Filed in Dealmaking

Increasingly in the business world, negotiators must compete not only with their counterpart across the table but also with others fighting for the same deal. A procurement officer may announce to a longtime supplier that she is putting their contract up for an auction for the first time, for example. Or competitors bidding for a … Read More 

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