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Updated: 23 Jul 2017

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 percent of our money back for the practically unused piece of furniture we purchased, or give us a credit – to be used in your store – for the full amount. Bear in mind that we just bought a new house, and may very well purchase additional 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 and want you to be fully satisfied.”

Several days after our negotiation, the store manager phoned to say the owner agreed to give us a full credit in his store, less the delivery charge they had previously incurred.

I love presenting my negotiation counterparts with different options and ways we can mutually satisfy our interests. Why is this such a pivotal part of a negotiators skills?

One, this empowers my counterparts and provides them with a sense of ownership over the ultimate result. Parties 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 almost all cases, a skilled negotiator will want their counterpart to walk away pleased. Offering options helps ensure this feeling. Give your counterpart the power to choose. It will help you in the long-run.

Two, the act of presenting choices to your counterpart often shows you to be a fair and reasonable person. It puts that “fair” hat on your head, an important consideration for your negotiation reputation and incidentally in any good negotiation skills training.

It is effectively the opposite of presenting an ultimatum, which is apt to make others defensive and decreases the likelihood of any deal.

Finally, presenting different options enhances the likelihood of reaching agreement, as it gives your counterparts the ability to satisfy their most critical interests.

It also increases the likelihood of achieving a result that creates additional value for both parties, the one that truly “expands the pie”, a crucial part of 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 percent 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. Or, 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 more happy overall than if I only had the cash option.

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 you and your counterparts’ interests, and even think about brainstorming with your counterparts 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 your counterparts’ interests.
  • Group the most promising options into those you value at equal levels, with at least two equivalent choices you feel comfortable presenting to your counterparts.
  • Present or submit these equivalent options to your counterparts, paying close attention to your counterparts’ reactions to the various options, thus seeking 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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