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How to Manage a Sales Negotiation to Your BATNA

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

The #1 essential rule of sales negotiation is Always Be Willing to Walk Away.

You know when you should walk when you know your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

When you’re feeling calm, clear-headed, and confident, you’re more likely to be a successful sales negotiator. Yet, anxiety is the most common emotion associated with negotiations, and anxious negotiators don’t perform well.

So how do you decrease anxiety and increase success? Be indifferent to the result of the sales negotiation. This doesn’t mean you don’t want the sale. You can want the sale, but you can never need it—or be perceived to need it.

This is something top-performing sales negotiators know: they’re twice as likely as the rest to be willing to walk away from the deal.


Factors Related to Willingness to Walk 

Factors Related to Willingness to Walk

Source: Top Performance in Sales Negotiation, RAIN Group Center for Sales Research

Being willing to walk is an incredibly freeing feeling. If the sale doesn’t happen—or it can’t happen at terms that are favorable to you—then no big deal. In fact, the faster you learn this the better, because then you can free your time to focus on more fruitful sales activities.

Being willing to walk and knowing when you should walk gives you a sense of control, which is critical for your ability to negotiate a favorable outcome.



How to Find Your BATNA

When it comes to a sales negotiation, you might have several alternatives to the agreement. But there's only one that's the best: your BATNA. Think of it like your Plan B.



You want to figure out what your Plan B is before negotiating to avoid making or taking an offer that’s worse than your BATNA—or rejecting an offer that’s better than your BATNA.

To estimate a BATNA, analyze the value of the alternative as specifically as possible.

Here's an example:



Here’s a three-step process you can use to determine your BATNA.

Download Our Checklist: Actively Manage a Sales Negotiation to Your BATNA >>

Don’t just analyze your BATNA; consider the buyer’s as well. Seeing the negotiation from the buyer’s perspective can increase your sense of control and confidence. While it’s unlikely you’ll know their BATNA with certainty, you can make some educated guesses based on your conversations and analysis.

You may also be able change the buyer’s perception of their BATNA. For example, if you share ideas the buyer isn’t aware of, you can potentially reduce the value of their BATNA and increase their desire to reach an agreement with you.

After you assess both your BATNA and that of the buyer, you’ll know when you should walk. If the value of agreement is greater than the value of no agreement for both of you, you’ll move forward. If the value of no agreement is greater for either of you, you won’t.


When Should You Walk?


Get the analysis right, and you’ll:

  1. Feel more confident and calm about negotiations
  2. Create and accept only good agreements for you and buyers
  3. Achieve better outcomes all around

Know your BATNA. Write it out and keep it handy. Review it before major conversations to reinforce the fact that you’re actively choosing to continue the negotiation process.


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Topics: Sales Negotiation

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