How To Get What You Want in A Negotiation
- Success in a negotiation depends on how an offer is framed
- Comparing an offer to a minimum-accepted price is the best strategy
- But this can backfire if the seller has received a higher offer already
The word ‘negotiation’ throws up some pretty dramatic images; a police officer negotiating the release of hostages or perhaps a world-renowned criminal negotiating the terms of their release from prison. In reality, it is a lot more common and often a lot less dramatic.
We’ve all tried and oftentimes failed in negotiating for something we wanted. From the small things, like asking for more pocket money when you were little or over whose turn it is to cook, to bigger things, like the price of a house or your salary at work. You might not notice it at the time, but we negotiate over a whole host of things.
The ideal end result from a negotiation is to get what you want. However, you don’t want to succeed at detriment to your relationship with the other person. There’s no point negotiating a higher salary with your employer just for you to get on their wrong side. After all, you have to continue working with them afterwards.
So, how can you ensure you get what you want while keeping all parties involved happy? Well, you’re in luck. Researchers have investigated exactly how to achieve this, and it turns out it involves just one simple trick: comparison.
Martin Schweinsberg, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at ESMT Berlin, alongside Michael Schaerer of Singapore Management University and Roderick Swaab from INSEAD, set up three scenarios to investigate how to negotiate successfully while still maintaining a friendly relationship with those you’re negotiating with.
Each participant took the role of the someone selling a condo, but different groups received offers framed in one of three different ways: 1) simply receiving an offer price, 2) being prompted to compare an offer to their minimum price, or 3) being asked to compare an offer to their target price. Participants then indicated how satisfied they were with the offer and responded with a counteroffer. The lower their counteroffer, the more successful the negotiation was.
The researchers found that including an extra sentence which prompts the seller to compare the offer to the minimum guide price increases the likelihood of the negotiation being successful, while keeping the seller satisfied.
Professor Schweinsberg says, “Imagine trying to buy a condo where the seller’s target price is $580,000 and their minimum price is $320,000. Instead of just saying “my offer for the house is $450,000”, adding the sentence “how does this compare with the minimum price you are willing to accept?” increased the chances of the buyer’s offer being accepted, and made the seller happier.
“This demonstrates that how an offer is perceived depends on how the offer is framed and that it is possible for a negotiation to be nudged to have a ‘win-win’ outcome. Most people assume that you can either be friendly in a negotiation and satisfy your counterpart or get exactly what you want, but evidently these two outcomes do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
Schweinsberg explains that adding this little question is beneficial for two reasons. Firstly, the seller now compares your offer to the minimum they would be willing to accept – this makes your offer more appealing to them. Secondly, it makes them happy to have received your relatively higher offer which improves and maintains your relationship with them. If you do not prompt them to compare to the lower minimum price, they are likely to compare your offer to the maximum price they want which makes your offer look less enticing.
However, when bringing a seller’s attention to their minimum-accepted offer, you need to be careful. This was made evident after the researchers ran another experiment where participants assumed the role of a restaurant owner trying to sell their business. This scenario was similar to the first three, however, some sellers had already been given an attractive higher offer from a competitor so were now in a high-power position.
When the counterpart was in this high-power position, shifting their attention to the minimum offer they would accept backfired: they then asked for more money and were less happy.
These findings demonstrate that it is possible to simultaneously achieve what you want in a negotiation and keep a friendly relationship with the other party, simply by prompting them to compare your offer with their minimum price, as long as they hadn’t already received a more lucrative offer.
As a last piece of advice, Schweinsberg says, “Most importantly, do negotiate! The biggest mistake you can make is not to negotiate at all, as you will never get what you’re not asking for. But when you do ask for something, remember to do so thoughtfully and tactfully.”
Follow this advice and you’ll be able to successfully negotiate for what you want, all the while maintaining important relationships.