How to Make ANY Negotiated Agreement Better

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Businessmen and women often forget that a negotiated agreement can still be changed. You have the option and opportunity to optimize an agreement throughout the business relationship. Why would it benefit you to renegotiate what you thought was a good agreement? Josh Weiss talks about it extensively in an episode of the Negotiations Ninja podcast. We share a few of his key thoughts in this post.

You can be creative to maximize value

Howard Raiffa—who popularized BATNA (The Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)—was always looking at whether or not people were being creative AND maximizing value in their negotiations. He set out to prove that the focus on compromise was misguided and that negotiators were leaving a tremendous amount of value on the table. He emphasized that you must ask the question: Can we explore and see if there’s something that we’ve left out of the negotiated agreement? 

Josh put his research into play during negotiation training at a company. They had just reached a deal with a company they’d been working with for a few years. They had simply renewed a previous contract. So Josh asked them: “Did you think about how you could make it better? Was there value to be added? Was there any way to make this better for both parties?”

He pointed out that asking these questions doesn’t add pressure because you already have a deal. But it does enable creative thinking. When you’re able to let go of defending a certain position, that’s when breakthroughs happen. So the company revisited its agreement. They were able to ask for things that mattered to them—and so was the other party. Taking this approach allowed them to take a deal from good to great.

You CAN ditch traditional negotiation theory

You must free yourself from traditional ways of thinking to begin to find solutions for difficult problems. How do you get there? By asking questions. It brings about incredible, amazing, and creative solutions.

  • If we were going to make this better, how can we make it happen?
  • How would you structure the deal differently?
  • Where can we add more value for both parties?

It might require some strategic decision-making and work to get each party more upfront value, but the amount of value that you can get out of the deal as a result of this significantly outweighs the amount of work that’s involved in getting there. But it may require a shift in mindset.

Change your mindset—and change your outcome

Josh notes that “Some of the biggest challenges we face are in our mindset and how we’re viewing and looking at a problem.” People Josh consults for will constantly relay all of the things they can’t do. But he likes to stop them in their tracks by asking: “I’m very clear on what you can’t do. Can you tell me what you could do?”

When they take a moment to ponder they realize there are options. They realize there just might be creative solutions. Then start asking themselves, under what conditions could I do that? How hard are those conditions to meet? When they change their mindset about the process, it can drastically change the outcome.

How powerful stories make an impact

Josh wrote his book to demonstrate how professional negotiators get through difficult negotiations. He wanted to find a way to share those stories with the world so people can understand the value of negotiation. So they can understand how it can be used to solve the problems that confront us daily. To hear the rest of his thoughts on negotiation, be sure to listen to episode 149 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast.