Determine Your BATNA Phase

One important part of the investigation and planning phase is to determine your BATNA, which is an

acronym that stands for the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” Roger Fisher and William Ury

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coined this phrase in their book Getting to Yes: Negotiating without Giving In.


Thinking through your BATNA is important to helping you decide whether to accept an offer you receive

during the negotiation. You need to know what your alternatives are. If you have various alternatives, you

can look at the proposed deal more critically. Could you get a better outcome than the proposed deal?

Your BATNA will help you reject an unfavorable deal. On the other hand, if the deal is better than another

outcome you could get (that is, better than your BATNA), then you should accept it.

Think about it in common sense terms: When you know your opponent is desperate for a deal, you can

demand much more. If it looks like they have a lot of other options outside the negotiation, you’ll be more

likely to make concessions.


As Fisher and Ury said, “The reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can

obtain without negotiating. What are those results? What is that alternative? What is your BATNA—your

Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? That is the standard against which any proposed agreement

should be measured.” [2]


The party with the best BATNA has the best negotiating position, so try to improve your BATNA whenever

possible by exploring possible alternatives. [3]


Going back to the example of your new job negotiation, consider your options to the offer you receive. If

your pay is lower than what you want, what alternatives do you have? A job with another company?

Looking for another job? Going back to school? While you’re thinking about your BATNA, take some time

to think about the other party’s BATNA. Do they have an employee who could readily replace you?


Once you’ve gotten a clear understanding of your own goals, investigate the person you’ll be negotiating

with. What does that person (or company) want? Put yourself in the other party’s shoes. What alternatives

could they have? For example, in the job negotiations, the other side wants a good employee at a fair

price. That may lead you to do research on salary levels: What is the pay rate for the position you’re

seeking? What is the culture of the company?


Greenpeace’s goals are to safeguard the environment by getting large companies and organizations to

adopt more environmentally friendly practices such as using fewer plastic components. Part of the

background research Greenpeace engages in involves uncovering facts. For instance, medical device

makers are using harmful PVCs as a tubing material because PVCs are inexpensive. But are there

alternatives to PVCs that are also cost effective? Greenpeace’s research found that yes, there

are. [4] Knowing this lets Greenpeace counter those arguments and puts Greenpeace in a stronger position

to achieve its goals.




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