A New Approach to Negotiation

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As we ease our way into the post-pandemic period, we’re discovering the need to brush-up and/or acquire many different presentation skills in order to succeed in adapting to the changed world.   

When we launched Presentation Excellence over two decades ago, clients asked us to not only help them design and deliver winning investor, sales, marketing, and management presentations, but also with other interactions, including negotiations, job interviews, networking, and connections, and forging strategic partnerships.

For instance, the Great Resignation – a mass exodus of 48+ million employees – has created a need for workers to be more authentic when determining the lifestyle and type of work they want for the next few years before applying for jobs. Similarly, employers need to retool how they present their companies’ culture and career opportunities for both new candidates and existing staff to increase the odds of a fit for retention and future leadership.  Both sides are busy figuring out how to 

Negotiation skills is another area that’s taken on increased importance. Whether you’re moving to a new apartment or house, your business is trying to get out of a lease because workers are now virtual or hybrid; or your company is dealing with slower supply chains, inflationary cost increases, or workers who want virtual or hybrid work, you’re going to be negotiating.

Given the importance of negotiations, and my personal interest in it (e.g., teaching it at the MBA level), we offered individual and group negotiation training to interested clients.  You may already be familiar with classic books such as Getting to Yes by Harvard’s Fisher and Ury, You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen (as well as his many other books!), and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. My personal favorite, which I use in my courses, is Negotiation Genius by Malhotra and Bazerman.

A new approach to negotiation has been offered by Yale’s Barry Nalebuff and I thought I’d bring it to your attention. In Split the Pie: A Radical Way to Negotiate. While most negotiation approaches view the entire deal that’s to be negotiated as the “pie”, Nalebuff focuses the “pie” on what’s really at stake: the “Zone of Possible Agreement” (aka ZOPA). By doing so, he concentrates on the additional value created through an agreement to work together. The book is filled with examples in which his approach makes sense. He notes that he used the approach to negotiate the sale of Honest Tea, a company he co founded, to Coca-Cola. 

One example shows how two people (Alice and Bob) split a 12 piece pizza pie under interesting conditions set by the pizza shop owner. If they don’t reach an agreement, then they will only get half the pie (6 slices) with 4 slices going to Alice and 2 to He shares three alternative approaches that could be used. Power (Alice gets 4 vs.2 of the remaining 6, as she did with the first 6, giving her 8 vs. 4 at the end, Equality (both deserve half of the full pizza, so Bob gets 4 vs. 2 of the remaining 6 slices, so they both get 6 at the end, or his Split the Pie solution, they split the remaining 6, giving Alice a total of 7 vs. 5 for Bob.

The key to all successful preparations, regardless of which approach you use, is to be prepared. Understand what your real interests are, and what those of the other side are: what does each of you want and why. What is your BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement?  In a fair, collaborative negotiation, focus on both sides’ interests as present and negotiate to an agreement. Don’t let the positions each side stakes out at the beginning, which often are designed to “anchor” the negotiation become the guiding star.

Good luck in your negotiations. May they all be successful.