The Negotiator Magazine

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The less you know about the other side, the higher your initial position should be, for two reasons:

1. You may be off in your assumptions. If you don't know the other person or his needs well, he may be willing to pay more than you think. If he's selling, he may be willing to take far less than you think.

2. If this is a new relationship, you will appear much more cooperative if you're able to make larger concessions. The better you know the other person and his needs, the more you can modify your position. Conversely, if the other side doesn't know you, their initial demands may be more outrageous.

If you're asking for far more than your maximum plausible position, imply some flexibility. If your initial position seems outrageous to the other person and your attitude is "take it or leave it," you may not even get the negotiations started. The other person's response may simply be, "Then we don't have anything to talk about." You can get away with an outrageous opening position if you imply some flexibility.

If you're buying real estate directly from the seller, you might say, "I realize that you're asking $200,000 for the property and based on everything you know that may seem like a fair price to you. So perhaps you know something that I don't know, but based on all the research that I've done, it seems to me that we should be talking something closer to $160,000."

At that the seller may be thinking, "That's ridiculous. I'll never sell it for that, but he does seem to be sincere, so what do I have to lose if I spend some time negotiating with him, just to see how high I can get him to go?"

If you're a salesperson you might say to the buyer, "We may be able to modify this position once we know your needs more precisely, but based on what we know so far about the quantities you'd be ordering, the quality of the packaging and not needing just-in-time inventory, our best price would be in the region of $2.25 per widget." At that the other person will probably be thinking, "That's outrageous, but there does seem to be some flexibility there, so I think I'll invest some time negotiating with her and see how low I can get her to go."

Unless you're already an experienced negotiator, here's the problem you will have with this. Your real MPP is probably much higher than you think it is. We all fear being ridiculed by the other. So, we're all reluctant to take a position that will cause the other person to laugh at us or put us down. Because of this intimidation, you will probably feel like modifying your MPP to the point where you're asking for less than the maximum amount that the other person would think is plausible.

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Copyright © 2003 Roger Dawson