When to Walk Away from a Deal in a Negotiation

By Chuck Doran and Megan Winkeler

Not every negotiation should end with an agreement. But how do you know when to walk away from a deal in a negotiation?

The first thing to consider before deciding when to walk away from a deal is what you will do without the deal on the table. Evaluate the current deal against your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – or, in negotiation lingo, your “BATNA”, which was first introduced in the seminal book on negotiation, Getting to Yes. Your BATNA is a course of action about what you will do to address your concerns if there is no agreement. For example, if you’re negotiating with your boss for a raise, your BATNA might be to accept another job (that pays more) or to start your own business. Compare how the deal on the table and your BATNA are able to satisfy your needs. You should never accept a deal that does not meet your needs as well as your BATNA.

Let’s say your BATNA does meet your needs better than the deal on the table. Time to walk away, right? Before you decide when to walk away from a deal, consider the following questions:

Have I clearly communicated my concerns?

Ask: have I been forthcoming and clear about my interests and needs? If the other side does not know what you needs and concerns are, they might not know that this deal doesn’t work for you. Clearly lay out how the deal on the table is not meeting your specific needs, and collaborate with your negotiation counterpart to create options that could meet your needs more effectively.

How will this negotiation affect our long-term relationship?

Sometimes, we get so caught up in getting the best deal possible that we lose sight of long-term gains. For instance, giving a client a discount on a service might not be in your best interest in the short term, but it could lead to more influence and business over time. Consider how this specific negotiation fits in with your larger relationship. Perhaps you miss out on satisfying some of your interests in the short-term, but you may be able to build a stronger relationship and partnership moving forward.

Have I put in enough effort?

Extended negotiations are difficult, and our frustration with the process can stunt our creative and analytical power. Would you benefit from taking some time to review the details away from the negotiation table? Would they benefit from the same thing? Taking a step back from the negotiation can provide perspective and give you space to think of options you might not have considered before. While you don’t want to spend too much time on a deal you aren’t happy with, you also want to make sure you aren’t leaving value on the table because of high emotions, low energy, insufficient preparation, or temporary roadblocks.

If answering these questions doesn’t improve the deal you have on the table and your BATNA still satisfies more of your needs, it’s most likely time to walk away from the deal. In our next post, we will provide advice on how to walk away from a deal without burning bridges or damaging relationships.

Click Here to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Do you have a negotiated agreement you want to review with a negotiation expert? Contact Chuck Doran at cdoran@mwi.org or 617-895-4026 for more information.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email