Negotiating success and building your “Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement”

Updated: 4 days ago

by Jeff Hulett

When negotiating, identifying and actively building a “Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement” or “BATNA” is important to both understand you own negotiating position and to help you build negotiating confidence. Next, we will explain the BATNA. Further on, we provide a job change BATNA-based example.

In negotiation theory, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA (no deal option) refers to the most advantageous alternative course of action a party can take if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. The exact opposite of this option is the WATNA (worst alternative to a negotiated agreement). The BATNA could include diverse situations, such as suspension of negotiations, transition to another negotiating partner, appeal to the court's ruling, the execution of strikes, and the formation of other forms of alliances. BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that deals are accurately valued, taking into account all considerations, such as relationship value, time value of money and the likelihood that the other party will live up to their side of the bargain. These other considerations are often difficult to value, since they are frequently based on uncertain or qualitative considerations, rather than easily measurable and quantifiable factors.

Oftentimes, it is even more difficult to determine the BATNA of the other party. However, the information is crucial as the BATNA determines the other side’s negotiation power. Sometimes, conclusions can be drawn by determining his/her main interests and the negotiation itself can be used to verify or falsify the assumptions. If, for example, it is assumed that a very early delivery date is of key importance to the negotiating partner, deliberately setting a later delivery date can be proposed. If this late delivery date is decidedly rejected, the desired delivery date is likely to be of great importance.

A job change example

When changing jobs, at some point, compensation negotiations will be required. The most important element to a successful compensation negotiation is building a strong BATNA. Here is how to do it:

  1. Start by pursuing similar jobs at multiple companies. It is important to build credible alternatives.

  2. Do primary research to determine typical compensation for similar jobs in similar markets. It is worth paying for this information.

  3. When working with the company recruiter, ask them for the standard salary range for the intended role. You would be surprised what they will tell you.

  4. Upon receiving the offer, consider asking for more money. Utilize your BATNA knowledge as the foundation for the compensation challenge. Remember, receiving an offer is a tell. It means they want you and you meet or exceed their hiring requirements! Well done!

  5. Remember, compensation has a few different levers, like salary, bonus pool, ownership potential, benefits, and signing bonus. You will need to weigh each form of compensation.

  6. In most companies, the recruiter is your main interface. They will likely have some leeway to negotiate salary. Beyond the leeway, they will need to get approval from the hiring manager or others in the leadership chain. DON’T FEEL BAD FOR NEGOTIATING, or, worry that you may look bad. If you have a well researched BATNA, you will look good for advocating for yourself with thoughtful reasoning. They want employees like that!

  7. Endeavor to understand the incentives of the agents involved with hiring you. The recruiter is more of a broker, they are incented to fill a position. The hiring manager is like a buyer, they are incented for hiring position quality. The hiring manager likely has an accountability to a hiring budget.

  8. Ultimately, the company will come back with a counter offer. You will need to decide if it’s worth it or whether you should pursue the BATNA.

  9. Always be professional. All communication should be clear, concise, and with appreciation. If you end up not taking the offer, you want to leave them wishing you had!

  10. Is a phantom BATNA ok? Meaning, is It ok to manufacture a fictional offer as a BATNA? Be careful. a) never make an untrue statement. Your credibility is most important. b) part of a BATNA is for your own psychology and confidence. c). your primary research may suggest market compensation. This could be used as an alternative in a sellers employment market.

Some people feel uncomfortable with negotiating. This is unfortunate. Good negotiation leads to better outcomes for all. Good negotiation is a form of good communication, where all parties express their key preferences. This creates a better platform for productive, long term relationships. Focusing on your BATNA is the foundation of good negotiation and a productive, long term relationship.

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