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We give you actionable advice so you can elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation—helping you overcome the hurdles you face in business and life to become even more successful.
Welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! Nolan and Aram have another listener-submitted question to answer: How do you know when you’ve reached ideal outcomes for negotiations? What are the indicators?
No matter how good an agreement looks, there may always be a tiny doubt in the back of some negotiators’ minds: Could that have gone better?
There’s nothing wrong with being thorough. At the same time, part of the art of negotiating lies in determining how much would be too much to ask.
It’s a fine line: You want your interests met, but you don’t want to push the other side so hard that talks collapse.
So, it’s important to know the hallmarks of an optimal negotiation. The first question to ask as you evaluate an outcome is, “Does this meet my interests?”
If it solves for your motivations, fears, needs, and concerns, the answer is probably “Yes.”
However, to confirm that answer, consider the other side’s interests, as well. If all of their metaphorical boxes are checked, you’re much more likely to be in the clear.
Regardless, consider the fairness of the potential agreement. Is it a reasonable outcome for both sides?
Meanwhile, were any opportunities for more creative solutions missed? Ideally, you want an outcome that would be defensible, even to a tough critic.
Perfection isn’t a realistic expectation. Nevertheless, diligence pays. It can help you fine-tune things toward solid, feasible solutions. It helps with implementation, too.
Next, look at the commitment. Is it something that you’ll be able to follow through and implement? Ideal outcomes, in the future, may hinge on it.
The best time to consider fixing implementation breakdowns is before you commit to an agreement. First, make sure you can honor your end of things 100%.
Second, try to establish some means of getting both parties back to the table, should implementation go sideways.
Hopefully, it won’t happen, but people abandon implementation every day somewhere (sometimes because they’re ordered to). So, you’re better off having safeguards in place, just in case.
Don’t just look at what you’re getting in the immediate sense, either. Tangible goods or services are nice. However, if you can get those things while improving a relationship, you’ve invested in your future.
Today’s counterparts have a funny way of being tomorrow’s allies, at times. When you establish a positive reputation—through being sincere, open, and flexible—you’ve built a bridge to them.
Don’t work so hard to be nice that you sell out your side of the negotiation. At the same time, go beyond civility. Actively seek their benefit alongside your own.
It’s a cliché, but that’s probably because it’s true: The best way to win friends is to be friendly. Ideal outcomes require good communication and trust.
Think of how you’d prefer to be treated—and then model that toward other parties. There’s no guarantee that everyone will reciprocate, but many people will.
Best of all, when you know you’ve made inroads with people, that’s another indicator of success. If your interests are met, their interests are met, and you’d enjoy working together again, it doesn’t get much better.
Rest assured that if this is the case, you’ve probably struck outcome gold. Assuming your communication was good enough that you sought solutions together (rather than simply going back and forth), that’s all there is to it. Implementation awaits.
By the way, Nolan and Aram have a webinar coming up on February 22nd at noon EST. You can reserve a seat by signing up here. There will be a few topics discussed, but most of the time is being reserved for your questions.
Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. My name's Nolan Martin. I am your co and co-founder of NEGOTIATEx. And with me today is my good friend, co-founder co-host Aram Donigian and Aram, how are you doing today, sir?
Aram Donigian : Good. I'm doing good, Nolan. And you?
NM : I'm doing very well. I'm excited cuz we have another question from our audience and uh, I'm just gonna jump right into it. If that's good with you?
AD : Please do.
NM : All right. Today's question is how do you know when you've reached the best outcome in a negotiation? And so I'm gonna kick this straight over to you, Aram. How do you know when you've reached that best outcome for a negotiation?
Yeah, that's a tough question. And it's going to really vary based on your level of preparation, that's gonna be so important. Let me start by just telling the story for anyone who's watching the video clip, you're gonna notice my little holiday Lego sets behind me, right?
You gotta have your lickies and chewies right Nolan? 😐. So anyways, I was like, well, that's great. And she said, well, she goes, “I did walk away when it was all said and done. I had walked away with a set of Bluetooth speakers” and I'm like, really? Okay. So how did you end up with this candy? She goes, “well, my friend who had the candy, doesn't really like candy and really wanted the Bluetooth speakers” and I'm thinking to myself, “well of course she did.” 😐 So my daughter says, you know, “so I traded her” and I said, oh, okay. I said, oh, okay.😐. And, and, and so she looked at me cuz I, she said, tell a little, I had a little doubt. And I, she goes, “well, I didn't know what I was gonna do with them anyways.”
And I said, I said, well, they would've connected to you, your iPod. I said, you know, a nice set of Bluetooth speakers can, you know, be worth something. I think you would've enjoyed 'em. And she goes, and she was very disappointed. She goes, “well, I knew you like this candy. And I thought that maybe, you know, if we watch Hawkeye over the holidays, uh, we can share this and won't that be a kind of a fun moment.” And she goes, and “I just didn't really, you know, I usually listen to music with my headphones on” and then, so there's this pause and I'm like, okay, right. Cuz in my mind I'm doing the economic calculation that no matter how good this, this candy is, it's probably still not economically worth, you know, a set of Bluetooth speakers. And, and so she looks at me and she goes, “did I make the wrong choice?”
And it's really to the essence of this question, you know, “Do I know I've reached the very best outcome?” And I said, “oh honey. I said, you know what? It sounds like your interests were doing something nice for your friend having a nice treat that you and I could enjoy together. You know, having something that was, that had a great utility to you. I said, I talk to my students about this all the time. I said, if that's your measure of success and you feel like you fulfilled that as well as you could have, then you should have no regrets about the decision you made. And so that's, that's kind of, that's where we went, but it's really at the essence of, of this question.
NM : I bet you felt bad for questioning it at first, at least.
AD : Oh yeah.
NM : Thoughtless thing that she did.
NM : I think, uh, Bluetooth speakers probably could have bought 10, 10 of those candies, but you know, it's still very nice
AD : True, true. And remember though, this is, this is one of those, this is where this kinda, we get ourselves into crap is that she's gotta find somebody who's gonna buy those for. Yeah. I, I, as much as I think Bluetooth speakers are worth, I wasn't gonna buy 'em. Right. So she's gotta find somebody who's gonna buy them from her 😐 then she's gotta go, you know, acquire the candy on her own and whatever, you know, buy five or 10 or whatever and find out where it is, which I probably guess where, where the person got it, that we think about it a little bit. So that means there's still some legwork involved, right. It's not necessarily, you know, you know, simple exchange now, all of a sudden there's a little bit more effort involved and you've gotta find a buyer at the end of all of it. She could, you know, be selling the speakers. And so this is where second guessing ourselves and everything can be real damaging. I just think, I think it's helpful if we have kinda like, I encouraged her just some simple guidelines. Hey, what were your interests? You know, what were some different ways you could solve it? Did you do the things, you know, around relationship and communication that you really wanted to do? And if so, walk away feeling good. Say it was a fair creative solution. Yeah.
NM : I mean, that's all you can ask for at the end of the day. So definitely a good, uh, lesson for, for her to, to dig through that. And I think it's a good lesson for any parents out there that the same thing that you had already brought up is although economically to you may not make the most sense, but however, when you really dig into the us and the reasons we negotiate yeah. Then, um, you really figure out why, or what's important to them. So that's right. I think that's awesome. Awesome story.
AD : Well, 😐 thanks. And anyone who's listened to us for a little bit will know that, you know, sometimes we talk parenting, I, I got the shortage of those sort of stories, but I think that's the power of, you know, the approach that we talk about is hopefully it may better in all aspects of our, of our walk, right? Whether it's professionally in complex, you know, supplier, client, customer negotiations, or it's at home and in our, our toughest personal, negotiations too, hopefully it helps us do a better job in those things.
NM : Yeah. Kind of going back to, to the question here is determining, the best outcomes. And I think we really gotta take it back to probably interest is where I'd kind of start this one out Aram. Well, have we, have we determined if our interests have been met, right? Because interests are the reasons we'd negotiate and options is how we, what we can do to make sure that we answer those interests. So kind of digging back into this, um, how, how do, how do you think, uh, where do we start for determining the best outcome? If, if we've reached a negotiation?
AD : Yeah. You said, I mean, it really does start with what were my interests and that's what I told my oldest. Right. Sounds like your interests were these things. So what are your motivations, fears, needs and concerns, and have you solved for those things? If you go into a negotiation with a positional mindset, you've unlikely really thought at that kind of deeper level about your concerns about, about, what's gonna keep you up at night. You know, we talked about, you know, Pacifico about what's, what's gonna impact or potentially impact any sort of implementation as you get into, you know, enacting an agreement. So I think you gotta, you gotta start there. Um, and, and the more interests you can and cover kind of the more, uh, work that, you know, more kind of pieces you have to negotiate around. And so I think understanding those, those interests are the, are the first piece as building blocks. And again, I've got these Lego sets behind me. You can't build a lot with one or two Lego bricks. You can build a heck of a lot more with 50,100, or more Lego bricks. It allows you more room to get creative. So that's one of the reasons we really want to know what our interests are and be really clear about 'em as well as understanding what the other party's concerns are. And that's gonna be a measure of success for us. How well did we satisfy those things?
NM : Right. And I think that goes back to our NEGOTIATEx prep tool is, you know, a negotiator thinks about their interests. I think a good negotiator is almost as clear about what their interests are as to what the counterparts' interests are as well. And you're capturing those. And although we may pitch options that may be more beneficial to our needs and our interests. But I think that we're also thinking about the other party, is that, is that a pretty accurate statement? Yeah.
AD : Right. And if you think about it, there's so many reasons for that, right? One is the room for creativity is greater. If we have more interest on the table, yours in mind, the doing kinda going back to the question we had last, uh, podcast around implementation, well, well, greater chance that they're going to join us in effective implementation. If they can see and experience their own interest, getting satisfied. And then, you know, kind of number three would be, you know, is that the relationship is, is gonna be improved, uh, which is often an, an interest of, of the parties too. If, if we've satisfied, been or interest in the process
NM : And what I would say, or what I've kind of noticed is that if this is a prolonged negotiation, right, it's, it's, you're negotiating something that is going to impact both you and them. It's relatively big negotiation. This isn't just a quick, you know, one in and out trying to get something figured out is take your time with generating options. And this is kind of like the, the no dumb questions, a, a bad question or, or whatever the saying is, is no option is, is really a dumb option. We're not evaluating options at this point. We're not saying, you know, good, bad or indifferent. We're literally just generating options. And, and our, I recall you kind of telling me a story, Aram, um, during our pre-call about an ice problem, I'll let you share that story. If, if you think it's a good time to share that one.
AD : Sure. Yeah. Anyone and anyone can Google this. The name of the story is honey pot creativity. And it just gets to the power of unfettered brainstorming, which is what you're discussing. Right. Taking all those Lego pieces and looking at the different ways you can put 'em together and saying, oh, that's cool. Okay. That one's cool too. That one's cool. Eventually we're going to have to pick one thing that we've built or a couple things cuz, cuz right. But we, but we're not doing that at, at first, right? It's the unfettered, the we're not evaluating or deciding yet most people combine those right to, and it really negatively impacts your, your brainstorming. You, you shut the brainstorming down because you get into evaluating or deciding too early. So this, this example, uh, comes from a power company of Pacific Northwest years ago. And, and the problem that they had was, um, the buildup of ice, uh, after a, a winter storm or an ice storm, a buildup of ice on, on the power lines and either causing, you know, severe power outages or having to put blind workers out on, out on the roads, um, you know, during, or immediately after bad storms folks having to climb poles, getting injured.
And so this just was internal and external problem 'em. And so they convened a, a group of, of different people from the organization. I sometimes I share this in terms of the power of diverse perspective too. And people who could see the problem through different lenses brought those people together. And one of the, the ground rules they established in terms of a process tool front is, Hey, we're just gonna commit to unfettered brainstorming. And we're really going work to come up with many possible solutions. And so in the process of this, one of the line workers kind of stands up about mid-morning and says, “gee, I wish we could really solve this problem just last week as I was dropping to the ground from a pole, uh, I was face to face with a gigantic black bear.
And it just scared the heck out of me” and somebody who was like, “yeah, that's I I've seen those too. Too bad we couldn't get the bears to climb the poles. And somebody said, well, you know, unfettered brainstorming, let's talk about it. How would we get the bears to climb the poles? And somebody said, well, I guess bears like, honey, how about if we put a honey pot on top of each pole? And somebody's like, “well, that's a good idea. How do you propose? We get the honey pot on the top of each pole?” And they said, you know, we have that fleet of, you know, helicopters that, uh, senior exec use to move from kind of power station to power station. Do you think we could drop a honey pot on top of each pole? And then that would attract the bears. And all of a sudden the room got really quiet and somebody said, “we've got a fleet, a helicopter. And there was a woman in the group who had been a, uh, nurse during Vietnam.
And she said, “when I was a nurse at a forward operating base and a helicopter would land the backwash from the rotors would push, you know, every bit of debris rock, whatever in a fairly large, you know, a hundred meter swath or, or more just blow load way. Do you think…”, right, most people at this point can fill in the punchline. “Do you think if we flew the helicopters over the power lines immediately after a storm, we, it would be enough to break up the ice.” And so that's sure enough that's, that's the solution they came up with and what they, they ended up doing. And it, it was a result of commitment to unfettered brainstorming.
NM : Yeah. I think that's a great story. I think it's pretty powerful and it definitely applies here and, and kind of, you know, how do you get to the best outcome other than unfettered brainstorming is also having a bunch of, you know, differing opinions. Like you said, across this entire electrical company was, was multiple different roles. And so they were all able to brainstorm together to really get at a creative solution that I ultimately believe probably was one of the best outcomes to an issue that they had.
AD : I mean, the odds are Nolan that if we get a hundred different ideas that are formed because we have different people with different life experiences, different views, different levels of education, background, experience, whatever it is coming to the table, you get a hundred of those things on the table, the odds that you're gonna come up with a robustly better idea than if you only have or three on the table. And they're all fairly homogeneous, it's, you know, I'll play, I'll play the odds of 😐. Let's spend a little time, let's get creative, let's get more on the table and we'll have, we'll have a lot more to kind of, you know, sift through.
NM : Yeah, absolutely.
AD : By the way, let me, sorry. Yeah, go ahead. Let me jump this into too folks who wanna say, well, that takes too long. I would say it takes more time when you come back and have to fix the problem later, cuz you didn't get to a robust solution the first time having to spend a little bit more time brainstorming, harnessing the power of diversity within your organization or within your organizations, the different teams that may be involved, different companies that are involved, I would rather, or commit the time up front and try to get it right off the bat versus come back and try to fix it,
NM : Fix it later. Yeah, absolutely. I think I've, I've ran into to that in the past, through the military planning, planning a range, you know, planning a, um, tactical, you know, training exercise when I don't bring in all, all of the NCOs, all of my non-commission officers who, you know, have a lot more experience than me, when I don't bring them into the room and really harness everyone's understanding of the problem and you know, what options that they can all create together. Then I ultimately find out that I created a range or a problem or a scenario that was probably only half as good as it could have been. So definitely I have, I thought I was gonna save time, but I think that ultimately it was a half of a solution and probably really didn't save that much time by just by skipping out on getting everyone involved. So
AD : Let me just throw in a couple more things. So one, you wanna know if you came up with the best solution. I'd like to know what's fair and reasonable. So if I, if I were my daughter, I could, you know, grab a phone and very quickly, you know, could have gone to the Target site. Cause I think, you know, Target website, I think that's where the candy came from and say, how much is this worth? Okay, what is the fair market value of this candy? And then probably go to Amazon and say, what's the fair market value of these Bluetooth, right? We live in an age of information, none of that’s secret, you get a fair, pretty fair market value. And all of a sudden you say, Hey, these Bluetooth speakers are worth five, 10 times more than the candy’s worth. This doesn't feel fair or reasonable.
Okay. And so how do we come up with now that we've come up with some ideas, maybe there was more room for creativity, you know, maybe there was like, you know, I, I share half the candy with you and you get to borrow the speakers or something. Maybe there was more room for creativity and knowing what's fair and reasonable can help us kind of say, um, let's, you know, we want something that's defendable to our toughest critic. And in the case of my daughter, you know, that was gonna be me 😐 the other thing is what's, you know, what's gonna be better than my alternatives. And, and I have I agreed or am I about to agree to something that's better than my walkaway? And so the walkaway was, I stay with these speakers and then as you were kind of, could I sell them to someone else who would give me cash, then I could go buy the candy and still have some, you know, spending for, you know, holiday presents or whatever, uh, afterwards, um, I, that would be another kind of measure of success to know that, uh, you know, so if, and if not, if my, if I don't have a good alternative, if I, as I was sharing earlier, if I, if I know there's gonna be a lot of legwork involved and it's gonna cost me something to get rid of these, and then I have to, you know, pay my folks for gas to take me over, to target, to go buy the candy.
Well, heck I don't have a very good alternative and this solution really satisfies my interest really well then, then I should go with it. The commitment do we, does it result in a commitment that, you know, we can actually follow through and implement. And if I won't go into everything we talked about last time, but there's a lot of that can be a lot of implement implementation problems that arise. Have we, have we ensured that we've addressed those. And then finally, you know, have I built the nature of the relationship that I want both at this person that I'm business doing business with or in, in this, you know, this case, there was a relationship component it with my daughter and, and the relationship with me, have I established a reputation for her, you know, that she was working on her reputation within her classroom by being open and, and flexible with a classmate. Did that build a reputation that she wanted with others in, in her class? And then what was the nature of the communication? Did they investigate side by side? Was it simply a trade back and forth, which I suspect it may have been. Um, but what was the kind of the process around communication that they followed? So that those would be other ways to really kind of think robustly about, did I get, and did I achieve a really good outcome, the best outcome?
NM : Awesome. I think if you consider all of those, if you were to do all of things, then I think that you can be pretty confident that you've come up with the best outcome to your negotiation. So I'm gonna put in a quick plug for a webinar that we have coming up on February 22nd at noon Eastern, you can sign up at negotiatex.com/webinar. This is gonna basically be we're putting a poll out on our LinkedIn. So if you have not subscribed to our LinkedIn or follow us there, go ahead and do that. And you'll be able to see a few of the topics that we're gonna propose that we discuss and then, but we're gonna save most of that time, basically for Q and A's for discussion to really identify what issues or, or what concepts you may be struggling with. And then you're gonna be able to hear both Aram and I speak to you directly in a webinar.
So it'd be pretty cool. I’d sign up for that. And then following the webinar on February 22nd, and the 1st of March, we will have the NEGOTIATEx pro side of our website up, and basically that's gonna be access to us on a monthly webinar. We're gonna have a bunch of members only content that's gonna live there from tools and everything like that. So it's gonna be pretty excited and you can get access to all of this by just signing up for the webinar first. And we'll kind of walk through some of those benefits of the pro side of the website. So with that, Aram, this is a podcast that is all about taking action. And so what are some action items our listeners can take away from today's episode? Yeah.
AD : Let me just give you one that we didn't really address as we talked about ways to measure success. I think the other, the other thing we need to consider is success, uh, strategically and how, what we've kind of talked about is kind of a very tactical sort of approach to measuring success. Um, it's one piece of must potentially a much bigger puzzle. And so we have to say, is that the right piece that we need at this moment? And how does it connect to other factors and other negotiate that are incur with this person or with other people as we try to complete the entire puzzle over months or years, whatever it might be. So I it's, so we wanna get it right today and we need to also have an appreciation that it is going to fit into something bigger over time. Um and so I think taking that strategic perspective too, and thinking about time and information and people and different leverage leverage, uh, leverage of, of kind of success and power can be really be helpful for us to really kind of frame what it is we're trying to accomplish and how, how much value it added.
AD : And so that's just another, a kind of perspective to take on this, that this one, this one measure is, is important and it's not the only piece. Yeah.
NM : And I think my takeaway from today's episode is take the time to get as many people, different opinions into one room and really brainstorm unfettered brainstorming of what options can we generate to help us come to the best negotiation. Cuz as Aram said, if we have a hundred different options, verse 3, 4, 5, we are most likely going to determine a much better outcome at the end of the day. So with that, I definitely appreciate you listening today's episode. If you have any questions or anything that any issues you're run into in your business or something that you want us to answer, you can shoot us an email at team at negotiate X and we'll make sure that we cover it in future episodes until then I'll see you in the next episode.
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