Customer Experience News & Trends

How to win at win-win negotiating

The point of a win-win negotiation with a customer is not to divide value equally, but to increase value for everyone. When you enlarge the pie, everyone gets more, and you may go home with the biggest piece. 

Go in prepared

Successful negotiation demands preparation. Begin with your BATNA (the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.) Determine and rank your interests – those issues, besides price, that make a deal more or less attractive.

The other side

Consider the deal from the customer’s perspective. Make a preliminary assessment of his or her BATNAs and special interests. Your negotiation is more likely to be successful if you avoid viewing those across the table as opponents.

Creating value

At the negotiating table, you and the customer may state your “opening demands.” Talks can stall if each side sticks to its opening position. It’s better if both sides move into the “trading zone,” the middle ground between positions. Here you can explore options that may boost value for both of you.


Begin the process by “reframing” the customer’s opening demand. The person may not yet be clear about his or her interests. Try to ask questions to probe for the customer’s major concerns. The customer may appear to be irrational only because you don’t understand his or her perspective. Maybe the person has to deal with new company guidelines or feels anxious about impressing superiors.

Negotiating strategies

Effective negotiating becomes not just a matter of getting what you want but also being concerned about customers or prospects getting what they want. Here are tips that will help:

  • Build trust and share information. Trust is the single more important thing you need in a negotiation. To build it, establish a track record of credibility. Stay in contact and remain positive and optimistic.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Listen when the customer talks. Try to understand the customer’s interests. Find the information you need to create trade-offs.
  • Come up with a novel solution not currently under discussion. Creative solutions can be found by identifying the underlying interests of both parties and brainstorming for a wide variety of potential solutions.

Concessions and compromises

Try to avoid defensiveness when approaching compromises, even when a customer is highly aggressive and appears to be playing hardball. Maintain a rational mode.  Customers are paid to press for concessions. They don’t necessarily expect to get everything they ask for.

Timing the negotiation process

Some salespeople think of negotiation as an event with a definite beginning and ending. This may not be true. Time and deadlines can favor either side, depending on the circumstances. To bring time to your side:

  • if there are benefits to resolving the negotiation quickly, try to sell the customer on the value-added concept of your offer
  • know your prospect’s deadline, but don’t reveal your own, if possible
  • realize deadlines can often be moved, changed or eliminated
  • try to convince the customer that the best outcomes are not usually achieved quickly, and
  • be patient. Most concessions will occur in the last 20% of the available time. Wait for the right moment to act.

Adapted from: Good for You, Great for Me by Lawrence Susskind, founder of the Consensus Building Institute mediation firm and co-founder of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

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