Do you talk about your other negotiation options, or BATNAs?

Comments

Very interesting blog post! Do you have advice for how to respond when the other side mentions their BATNA? Should you immediately respond with yours? How do you affirm your position without sounding threatening? Thought provoking post- I'm glad I follow you on Twitter and found it.

It is a common misperception that disclosing a BATNA necessarily leads to some confrontation. Not so….

First, when someone hints at or discloses their BATNA, you are thrilled! You want and need to know as much as possible about your counterpart’s BATNA because with that information you can determine how to offer terms more valuable than their BATNA (or find out that their BATNA is much stronger than you thought and reassess your own business and negotiation strategies).
 
Second, while you want to hint/disclose at some point early in bargaining that you have a BATNA (not necessarily what it is), this is probably the wrong moment to do that. This conversation is about your counterpart’s BATNA; pick your own moment to start a conversation about your BATNA.
 
Third, the Best Negotiating Practices dictate that when your counterpart hints at or discloses a BATNA, you want to LET THEM TALK. Listen (attentively and with sincere curiosity). Next, Probe (ask open ended questions designed to elicit more information). For example, “Tell me more about that company, their market presence is new to me,” or “I think we can make progress if you can share more about your options.” Direct questions delivered in a non-defensive/non-aggressive tone can be helpful here too: “Who are their other clients/suppliers,” or “Have they put an offer on the table or are you in preliminary discussions.”
 
Remember, a rational negotiator will take a deal that is better than their BATNA. Now, if your counterpart is irrational or is disclosing their BATNA as a threat, your strategy will include how to manage irrational or intimidating negotiators (a topic to be covered in a future blog), but will still benefit greatly from the one-two punch of listening and probing.