In the course of a career, a negotiator will confront many skilled persuaders. At times you may need to be on the defense. Here, we review three defensive negotiation strategies a negotiator can employ to help get the job done.
Defensive Negotiation Strategy #1: Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Prepare systematically and thoroughly for your negotiations by rigorously analyzing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA; evaluating the zone of possible agreement ZOPA); and investigating all the issues at stake. Well-prepared negotiators are unlikely to accept a subpar offer simply because of how it is framed.
Defensive Negotiation Strategy #2: Separate information from influence.
Your counterpart’s statements (like your own) are inevitably one part information, one part influence. Your task is to separate information from influence before you react. When someone makes an argument or request that seems compelling, ask yourself questions such as these:
- If anyone else had made this proposal, would I be willing to agree to it?
- Would I have agreed to this proposal yesterday, or even an hour ago?
- Can I defend my compliance to my colleagues and my boss?
Defensive Negotiation Strategy #3: Rephrase the other side’s offer. Mitigate the impact of influence strategies by rephrasing the other party’s requests.
Suppose that someone says, “I’d like you to agree to this proposal because I think it’s fair.” Consider how this statement sounds minus the justification: “I’d like you to agree to this proposal.” Suddenly it’s less persuasive. Similarly, if someone offers you several small payments, think about whether the proposal would be as attractive if you had received it one lump sum instead.
To claim value (and create value) in your next negotiation, use the following six negotiation tips from the Negotiation newsletter. For example, explore alternatives to the negotiations at hand. In most negotiations, preparation beforehand is not only recommended, but it can also save money or help negotiators find areas for value creation with their counterpart. In particular, it helps for a negotiator to know her BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) before entering into any business negotiations. Knowing a negotiator’s reservation price – the highest price at which a negotiator would pay in the negotiating scenario – can empower a negotiator to walk away from a bad deal and seek a better bargain with a negotiating counterpart employing a more integrative bargaining approach.
Have you ever used any of these defensive negotiation strategies? Share your experience with us in the comments.
Adapted from “Pitch Your Offer and Close the Deal,” first published in the August 2008 Negotiation newsletter.