Techniques for Building Win-Win Agreements

Many people look at negotiations through the wrong lens. They see negotiation as a discussion that results with one person being the winner and the other person being the loser. They assume an agreement has only been reached because one person played hardball to get what they wanted, which in turn soured the working relationship for all parties involved. The reality is that negotiations do not have to be this way at all. In fact, the most successful negotiators do not enter into a negotiation looking to “win.” Rather, they seek to find a mutually acceptable outcome that leaves both parties happy and strengthens the working relationship. This is known as a win-win negotiation and this type of negotiation is successful because it encourages the cooperation of both parties toward a common goal. Here are a few techniques for getting to “yes” with a win-win agreement. 

Focus on the Problem

In a traditional bargaining scenario, the interaction is based on positions and counter-positions. This type of negotiation commonly causes tension as one side argues over the price or your unwillingness to concede certain conditions. It can feel like two people are sitting on opposite sides of the table playing tug-of-war until one party finally concedes. With a win-win approach, however, the idea is to focus on the problem and work collaboratively to come up with a solution. By focusing on the problem, both parties can have a productive discussion and come up with ways to solve the problem that will be mutually beneficial to both parties. 

Identify Their Interests 

In a traditional bargaining scenario, people tend to take a firm stance and stick to that position. The negotiation is all about “what I want.” In a win-win scenario, the focus shifts to the interests of the other party. If you can identify why they want what they want, you can explore different options to help them get there. Therefore, it’s important to ask plenty of questions and identify what is motivating them. When you have their interests in mind, it allows you to create a smooth path to an agreement. 

Invent New Options for Mutual Gain

The secret to a win-win agreement is exploring and creating new options that will be mutually beneficial. Think about every possible solution for the problem and be receptive to new suggestions. Instead of limiting yourself to just one solution (I will only sell the package for this price), consider new solutions that will benefit both parties. For example, “I will sell the package at my price but I will include a few extra features for your benefit at no cost.” By expanding the number of solutions, you increase the chances of coming up with an agreement that is suitable to both parties. 

Know Your BATNA

Your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is your plan B or your backup plan. It is important to have a clearly defined BATNA because there will be times when you just can’t get everything you want. In these instances, your BATNA is your most attractive alternative. You have considered it carefully ahead of time and it’s an agreement that is acceptable to you. Having a prepared BATNA allows you to negotiate from a position of strength and still walk away with a win-win outcome.