The Negotiation Equation

Negotiation Equation

The best negotiators are young children, because they always know exactly what they want, who they want it from, and when they want it.  They’re also willing to use tactics (whining, temper tantrums, annoyance) that aren’t available to most professionals.  Let’s focus on the big question first — knowing what you want.

At it’s simplest, a goal system is the difference between what you’ve got and what you want.    

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What you want = Goal systems and Variables

What you’ve got  = Alternatives, BATNA, and Plan B

What you need =  The reason you are negotiating, which is really your negotiating agenda.

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Let’s start with the top line — our goals as negotiators.  When analyzing your goals, you’ll end up looking at your list of stakeholders and your own authority, but we’ll start with a set of broad strategic initiatives.  Start general, and then drill down and get more specific.

Goals are pretty simple to understand — maybe too simple.  A lot of negotiators make assumptions about their own goals, or are fuzzier than they should be about how to evaluate proposals and deal points.  We’ll look at the mechanics of establishing your own goal system – but consider your own individual needs and expectations.  Are you driven by your firm’s bold entry into a new market or by your own commission checks?  Do frequent reality checks about your overall business goals and how they relate to this negotiation.   You can make the choice between announcing your goals to your counter-party or keeping them to yourself — but you & your team must agree on what a win looks like and when to walk away.

 You have stay on top of what you want and come up with a plan for how you are going to get it.

What You Want   =  Goal System.

What is the big picture, long term goal that this particular negotiation is part of?




What are the main short term goals that drive this negotiation:




 Goals involve stakeholders.

Who can say YES?

Who can say NO?

Who can say MAYBE … or Do it differently?

Other stakeholder issues:

  • Whose idea was this negotiation?
  • How much authority do you have relative to the rest of the organization.
  • Who on your side is involved in setting the negotiating terms?
  • Who on your side can influence the final decision?
  • What is your time frame? 
  • What are you doing now?   Who are you doing it with?
  • Is your negotiating counter-party presently your partner, supplier or customer?
  • What would you do if they were agreeable to your terms but unable to perform?
  • What’s the least worst option available to you right now?
  • Assess your power in this relationship(s)?  Strong, Matched or Weak

Download the
Negotiation Equation Worksheet

Next:  What Would You Do – Goals
Back:  GOBLINS Guide

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