Always be ready to challenge someone's first offer – even if their first offer is at or better than your goal.
Why? Three reasons:
- You can almost always do better than their opening offer.
- More creativity will flow.
- If you accept quickly and easily, they will feel like they could have done better.
Deprive the other side of the ability to win something from you, and they will second-guess what seemed like a good solution.
Ask yourself, "Does anyone ever start at his or her Least Acceptable Agreement?" Very rarely. And if you accept their first offer, they will realize soon enough that they should have started more aggressively.
When the other side opens at your goal or better, do them and yourself a favor and continue to negotiate:
- Ask questions
- "Crunch" (a reaction that shows surprise but does not make a counter-offer)
- Tell them you want to explore for creative solutions/mutual gain
- Counter their offer and seek to reach your Most Desired Outcome (MDO)
If other factors make it too risky for you to reject a favorable opening offer, at a minimum you need to show some pain. Give their offer value by asking questions and showing consternation. You will indirectly be acknowledging that they had a good reason to open at their Goal or Least Acceptable Agreement (LAA.)
Ultimately the other side will be more comfortable with the solution and the long-term relationship that ensues if they were engaged in a process of giving and getting. They will want to work with you again.