Four mistakes to avoid
“Hiring an experienced software developer is a nightmare!” complained a friend who ´s an IT head-hunter. “They have such a cushy life!”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, there´s a desperate need for them on the job market. And, of course, they´re aware of it. There´s even an insider joke around this. ‘At lunchtime, they ask one another, ‘So, what´s the score?’ meaning, ‘How many head-hunters offered you a job today?’”
I pictured the winning guy’s smile. Wouldn´t we all want to be in that position? Well, that´s what BATNA is all about.
BATNA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, or in other words, knowing our options if negotiation fails. Or what we could do without any negotiation at all.
It´s one of the big eye-openers for people at my trainings. Once we have an attractive alternative, the pressure is off our chests. It feels empowering! We have nothing to lose, right? Just like the IT guys.
The reality, however, is often different. There is a learning curve to everything. And handling BATNA is no exception. It´s a great tool – just like a hammer. You can still hit your thumb if you´re not careful enough.
So, here are four moments when I hit my own thumb with the hammer. Watch out for them.
Thinking Only About BATNA
Some years ago, I entered negotiation with a potential client thinking about what l would say should they not be interested. I had my exit ready, but to my surprise, they liked what we had discussed and wanted to know the immediate next steps. I stammered. I had not quite expected such smooth negotiation. I wasn´t sure about the next steps – how many people I needed to interview first, when I could start. As a result, my professionalism suffered. I had made the typical newbie mistake – thinking only of what I would do if I failed. The lesson: prepare not only for the No, prepare for the Yes!
Too Many Alternatives
When searching for a proof-reader, I explored multiple options. I researched language schools, freelancers, various web sites, and so on. In fact, I liked the freedom of choice so much that I felt like a kid in a chocolate store. I found it hard to commit to anything. Result: it cost me several weeks’ delay, instead of quickly negotiating a good-enough deal. Remember, you still want to make that deal, ok? Don´t get carried away by the process. Very often, time is also an important criterion in negotiation.
Failing to Think About THEIR BATNA
Sometimes we might have very limited alternative solutions because we devote all our time and energy toward our situation. When delivering trainings to a big client, I was busy thinking of the dates to prepare, the details to prepare, the training materials to prepare, last year’s results, and many other things. There was so much to prepare that I completely forgot to prepare my BATNA before negotiating the financial conditions. In fact, I had no real alternative, and I felt despairingly naked in the negotiation. It took my close friend to ask, “Who could replace you if you broke your leg and couldn´t deliver the training sessions for some time?” Only then did I experience the aha moment: no one could replace me! There were no other options on the market. The client was equally “naked” in this negotiation. While drowning in things to do, I had failed to put myself in the client’s shoes and realise their BATNA was equally weak. So the advice is clear: think about their options, too. Maybe they are weaker than you think!
Mentioning My BATNA to the Other Party
I remember the strange look I saw when telling a client about all my other projects in the pipeline. I felt happy with his initial question about how things were going, but his arms crossing and his body moving back in the chair should have warned me that I was dancing on eggshells. Only when I saw the same behaviour demonstrated during one of the trainings did I put my finger on it: it feels threatening to hear how the other side doesn’t need you. It’s like telling someone, “Ha-ha, you´re not the only one!” It irritates people, makes them defensive, and worsens your relationship.
Why do I write about these? When I read advice in a book, I underline it. But it´s when I try it and fail that I really think about what the advice means. And only then can I see the true value of it. Like with BATNA. I hope my experience will lower your learning curve. Or perhaps you’ve recently had your own similar experience?