A few posts ago, I talked about how to out-negotiate the car dealer: by cultivating your alternatives. We’ve also tried to out-negotiate toddlers (with first offers), employers (with reservation prices), and cable companies (with targets).
In all of these areas, life’s negotiable!
Yet, at this point, I need to introduce an important wrinkle: To REALLY win any negotiation, you need more than a single, simple strategy. Although each strategy will give you a great start on each problem introduced so far, life rarely lends itself to simple solutions. Ultimately, what you need is the negotiation Jedi’s ability to wield all four strategies at the same time!
Does that sound daunting? Today, you’ll see that it’s not—that all four strategies actually fit together naturally once you know how. To illustrate the connections without introducing new complexity, today’s post will reopen a problem we’ve already seen—the car dealer—briefly applying each of the four strategies to this particular problem but focusing on the overall process. The upside of brevity and reiteration is that you’ll not only learn how to master ANY negotiation; you’ll develop particular prowess at taming the car-dealing crocodile.
So, for today’s example, imagine that you’re in the market for a lovely Ford Taurus. You’ve found a stunning red model at the local dealer, priced at an attractive $25,000. What to do now? Here’s a four-step process that I would recommend for nearly any negotiation, including this one:
1. Define and try to improve your BATNA (best alternative).
As discussed in the original post on car dealers (which you should feel free to see for more information), one of the easiest and most important ways to avoid succumbing to the crocodile is to find another Taurus at a different dealer that you could buy in place of the red beauty. Better yet, find another Taurus at a different dealer that you could LOVE like the red beauty—ideally one with a similar or lower price. For example, suppose you search high and dry, finding another Taurus that—though blue—is competitively priced at $23,000. If the red Taurus is still tugging just a little bit harder at your heartstrings, the blue Taurus is your BATNA—and it sounds like a pretty good one.
2. Use your BATNA to define your reservation price (bottom line)
As discussed in the post on jobs, knowing and growing your BATNA is not quite enough: you also need to have a clear idea of what to do with your BATNA. Specifically, you need to translate your BATNA into a numerical bottom line (i.e., a reservation price) for your primary negotiation over the red Taurus. If you’d be willing to pay $1000 more for the ecstasy of red than blue, you might say to yourself: “Self, I won’t pay a penny more than $24,000 for the red Taurus.” Sounds like a reservation price for the red Taurus.
3. Define your target (goal)
As discussed in the post on cable companies, determining a bottom line is still not enough: if that’s the only number in your head, you run the risk of accepting a deal that’s kind of / sort of / barely / minimally acceptable, maybe. To avoid that kind of deal, you need to know what you really want! In other words, you need to set a target. But how to do it? In this case, the $23,000 price of the blue Taurus seems like a good place to start. Make that number your goal for the RED Taurus; think about it and focus on it instead of the $24,000 you’re actually willing to pay. Only remember the $24,000 figure at the end—to decide what to do and determine how well you’ve done.
4. Use your target to make a first offer
As discussed in the post on toddlers, your job is still unbelievably not done. Why? Because YOU know your target but your counterpart still has no idea what it might be. Unless your counterpart starts thinking about YOUR target, they’ll probably think about theirs. Luckily, there’s an easy way to bring the crocodile around to your way of thinking: by making the first offer. Before he can even snap his jaws, you should make an offer—and one that clearly communicates your target. If your real target is $23,000, you might offer something slightly more aggressive in hopes of eventually landing at your target: perhaps $22,000.
So you see that the four concepts discussed in the context of four separate problems actually apply to all four problems—and to many other problems you’ll probably face throughout life. Future posts will discuss new problems and strategies, but these four will always remain at the core.
What do you think of the four-step process?