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Updated: 14 Dec 2020

Negotiating Skills give you options in the Furniture Store



Presenting multiple options not only enhances your negotiation skills, it increase the chances of satisfying both your own and your counterparts interests.


by Marty Latz

“Let me propose a few options, each of which would be acceptable to us,” I said to the furniture store manager in our negotiation.

“Either provide us with 80% of our money back for the practically unused piece of furniture we purchased or give us store credit for the full amount. Bear in mind that we just bought a new house. We may very well purchase more items at your store in the future.”

“Interesting,” he replied. “I’ll give the owner a call and see what he thinks. Of course, as you know, we don’t have any obligation to do anything. But we always try to take excellent care of our customers. We want you to be fully satisfied.”

Several days after our negotiation, the store manager phoned to say the owner agreed to give us full store credit, less the incurred delivery charge.

The Importance of Options

I love presenting my negotiation partners with different options. This allows there to be more ways we can mutually satisfy our interests. Why is providing options such a pivotal part of a negotiator’s skills?

One, options empower the other side. The feeling of choice provides them with a sense of ownership over the ultimate result. Negotiators will be more likely to be content and fully comply with something they choose, as opposed to a consequence they feel has been imposed upon them.

In most cases, a skilled negotiator will want the other side to walk away pleased. Offering options helps ensure this feeling. Give the other negotiator the power to choose. It will help you in the long-run.

Two, the act of presenting choices often shows you to be a fair and reasonable person. This action puts that “fair” hat on your head. Having a reputation for fairness is an important consideration and will form part of the advice offered by any good negotiation skills training.

Giving options is effectively the opposite of presenting an ultimatum. Taking an “all-or-nothing” approach is only effective in making others defensive. In turn, this decreases the likelihood of any deal.

Finally, presenting different options enhances the likelihood of reaching an agreement. Options give the other side the ability to satisfy their most critical interests.

You also increase the likelihood of achieving a result that creates additional value for both sides. In effect, you can truly “expand the pie,” a concept that’s crucial in your negotiation skills arsenal.

Let’s suppose a used furniture store offers to sell a couch for $2,000 but offers customers the option to either pay cash now or finance it at a below-market 5% interest rate over one year.

Alternatively, assume the store merely offers to sell the same couch for $2,000 cash now, with no below-market financing option.

If I’m in the middle of a cash-flow crunch and I only have the cash option, I may not even buy the couch. Alternatively, I might pay the $2,000 now but be less pleased overall than if I had the choice to finance it at a below-market interest rate.

On the other hand, if I’m in the middle of a cash-flow crunch, and I have the choice to pay cash or finance it at a below-market rate, I probably will finance the purchase.

With this option, I can achieve both my cash-flow interest and my interest in the couch. I will thus be happier overall than if I only had the cash option.

Putting “Options” into Practice

So how can you obtain full advantage of the negotiation skills power of “options”?

  • Brainstorm with a colleague on your negotiation team to create options that may satisfy yours and the other side’s interests. Even think about brainstorming with the other team to develop the kinds of options that may satisfy your mutual interests.
  • Prioritize those options that meet your most important interests and that potentially also achieve the other side’s interests.
  • Group the most promising options into those you value at equal levels. Prepare at least two equivalent choices you feel comfortable presenting to the other team.
  • Present or submit these equivalent options. Pay close attention to the other team’s reactions to each option to reveal their most important interests.

The store delivered our new bedroom set last week. Interestingly, of all the choices available at the store, and there were quite a few, it was the only set that met both my wife’s interests and my own.

We are both thankful for both of us choosing to exercise this important area of our shared negotiation skills: creating options.

Marty Latz, a negotiation columnist for The Business Journal of Phoenix.

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1 comment
  • 0
    Ravi kumar on

    When you say having option satisfies the parties better. Do you mean having a proper BATNA for that?

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