As with all good negotiation preparation, you should always have a Plan B before walking into a meeting. It is common knowledge that you should plan in advance of any negotiations in order to get the result you want. Do you know the single most effective way to remove the other party’s power? It may surprise you that the answer is having a plan B, otherwise known as a BATNA- Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Having a good BATNA increases your negotiating power. If you know you have a good alternative, you won’t feel pressured to concede as much, because you won’t care as much if you get the deal. Likewise, it allows you to push the other side harder, because you won’t feel compelled to accept their demands. A BATNA gives you something to fall back on if the negotiations prove unsuccessful.
Having an alternative, or plan B up your sleeve, can also have a positive impact on your performance during a negotiation. It gives you the confidence to push a little harder because it eliminates the feeling of desperation. For example, imagine you are in dire need of a job and you have just been offered one. Chances are, you aren’t going to want to jeopardize the job by negotiating for more pay and you will likely feel compelled to accept the job as is. Now imagine you have two separate but equally attractive offers on the table. Knowing you have an alternative option gives you the courage and power to ask for a higher salary.
How to Determine Your BATNA
It may not always be easy to identify your best alternative but the following steps can help clarify the process:
- Make a list of all possible alternatives you would like to consider if the negotiations do not go as planned.
- Evaluate these alternatives based on value.
- Select the alternatives that would bring the highest value.
- After you have determined your BATNA, calculate the lowest value deal you would be willing to accept.
A strong BATNA can help you walk away from any offer that is less valuable to you. It can also help you to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept an offer.
You want to prepare as much as possible before entering into negotiations. You will need to consider all possible options and develop a strong BATNA in advance. You should expect that the other party will do the same, so be prepared to remain strong in your stance. It is also important to prepare multiple BATNA’s. In fact, the more BATNA’s you have, the more cards you have to play at the negotiating table. Finally, remember that successful negotiators do not allow themselves to get too invested in a successful outcome. A skilled negotiator knows there are bound to be times when you simply need to walk away.
A strong BATNA acts as a backup plan in case all else fails at the negotiating table. It also improves the likelihood that some kind of agreement will be reached.