As a negotiation consultant, my role sees me meeting and working with people with a very diverse range of negotiation experience and confidence. Interestingly, nearly every time I speak with someone who is reluctant to make a proposal, their fear stems from not knowing how much to ask for.
They hope they can put a Goldilocks position on the table - not too hot and not too cold - however they know that the likelihood of guessing what will be ‘just right’ is virtually zero. They worry that their proposal will be rejected almost as much as they worry their proposal will be accepted:
- If my proposal is rejected… I’ve asked for too much!
- If my proposal is accepted… I should have asked for more!
Unfortunately, this fear typically invokes the worst possible stance – freezing. They do nothing, instead waiting for their counter-party to propose first and as a result they receive nothing or next to nothing.
Freezing isn’t a great negotiating strategy. It is far better for you to put your position on the table, ask for what you want, and be prepared to deal with the outcome.
Strategy for ‘Acceptance’
This sounds silly, but it is only human to feel remorse if someone accepts your proposal too quickly and easily. The joy of getting what you wanted is quickly overshadowed by signals which infer that perhaps you didn’t ask for enough.
Rather than asking for more, which would irritate the counter-party and make you look silly, introduce a new variable (not an extension of your original request) – ‘thank you, I think we are close, if you could also do xyz for me, then we have a deal’. These new variables would come from your pre-prepared wish list. If you find yourself stuck because you don’t have one, take an adjournment – ‘that’s great, I think we are close, let me run it past the boss’
Strategy for ‘Rejection’
If they say ‘no’, you need to take a leaf out of the toddler handbook. Ask them ‘why not?’ to surface their objections and constraints – maybe you can solve them. If it is an issue of value, perhaps you can help them by offering to do additional low cost/low difficulty things in exchange for their agreement – ‘just suppose I also do xyz for you, would you then agree to my proposal?’ This is in effect providing the counter-party with a wishlist and additional variables to give them more flexibility.