I’ve had the opportunity to take part in hundreds (if not thousands) of negotiations during my career. It actually started way back when I was a sophomore in college negotiating offers to buy out businesses. You learn a lot about the art and science of the craft in that amount of time. Without a doubt, the most important lesson I’ve ever learned, the lesson which I would say is the #1 lesson in the art of negotiation, is having a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. In its simplest terms, your BATNA is that thing you have in your “back pocket” that gives you the power and/or freedom to walk away from a negotiation, with or without whatever it is you’re negotiating for. And, the party with whom you’re negotiating knows it. Examples could be:
- Lots of business coming in (BATNA when negotiating with a potential client)
- Other offers from vendors you are willing to accept (BATNA when negotiating with a potential vendor)
- Job offers you’ve been extended (BATNA when negotiating for a job)
The tricky part of any negotiation is knowing your BATNA before hand. In many cases, it may come down to timing. Waiting on an offer or gig to come in. In other cases it may involve building up a network of professionals and businesses that gives you multiple options in any situation. But in every situation, it comes down to a psychological state where you are prepared to walk. All of this pre-supposes that the party with whom you’re negotiating wants you or your services enough to stick it out or to make concessions at the thought of you walking. Because, chances are, they have a BATNA too.
Having a BATNA does not mean trying to be so ruthless that you make a deal that’s good for you and bad for the other party. That is never good. Always, always strive for a win-win. Both parties need to feel great about the deal. Otherwise, it’s like heading into a bad marriage.
But Wait, There’s More
There’s one other aspect of BATNA you should know. To present it to you is Simon Anderson. This is a Flip Side video I did a few years ago. At the time, Simon was Chief Marketing Officer at Pictage. Since then, he’s become CEO of DreamHost.