M 4
Select Page
Updated: 9 Sep 2021

ZOPA Negotiation (the Zone Of Possible Agreement)



Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) is the blue sky range where deals are made that both sides to a negotiation find acceptable.

What Does ZOPA Stand For?

ZOPA might almost sound like a foreign word for a cheer of joy, or maybe even a new and exciting soft drink about to splash the marketplace. It’s neither, but if you have a wide ZOPA in your negotiation, it’s nearly as sweet.

Negotiation ZOPA stands for Zone Of Possible Agreement. It’s the blue sky range where we can make deals that both sides in a negotiation find acceptable. Whether we’re buying something at a bustling yard sale or entering into a complex business venture, the zone of possible agreement is where an agreement is most likely to occur.

The process in finding this zone requires a little bit of detective work in order to make it work. It begins with a proposal by a person, commercial entity or organization known as a “proponent.” Essentially, this is the person who puts an offer on the table. We know the receiver of a proposal as a “prospect.” This is the person or entity who considers the merits of the offer or proposal. The prospect will accept the proposal, make a counter proposal/offer, or outright reject it. This is where the game begins to get seriously fun.

ZOPA Negotiations Explained

The proponent is trying to sell us something. This can be a product, a business idea, services, an organizational concept or a combination of these things. We know the proponent more commonly as the “seller.” The prospect, on the other hand, we know more commonly as the “buyer.

The seller wants to get the maximum amount possible for their proposal. However, they may generally also set a limit for the least amount they will accept. The least amount they are willing to accept is known as the seller’s reservation price. This is the amount where they draw the line, also know as the “walk away” from the deal.

The buyer, on the other hand, wants to pay the least amount possible, but may consider a higher amount that they might be prepared to pay. We call the maximum amount they are prepared to pay the buyer’s reservation price or walk away from the deal.

The differences between these respective lows and highs of both the seller and buyer are their range of expectations. When you have a common ground or overlap between these two different ranges, this is known as the ZOPA.

Of course, common sense dictates that if there is no overlap zone in the expectation ranges of the seller and buyer, agreement becomes highly unlikely. Similarly, even where a ZOPA exists, the agreement might still not materialize, when the sides are unable to agree. The letter ‘P’ in ZOPA, meaning possible (agreement), will more probably occur, but it’s not a definite.

Hypothetical Case

An illustration might make this clearer. Fiona intends to sell her business. She advertises her business for 30,000, which is her highest expectation on what she has determined as the optimum value. However, she will let it go for as low as 25,000, being her reservation price.

Gerald is interested, but he can only afford to pay 27,000, which is his walk away or reservation price. So, Gerald makes a tentative first negotiation offer of 24,000. Neither of these negotiators know the reservation price or walk-away positions of the other negotiator.

The overlap range or ZOPA lies between 25,000 and 27,000. This is the comfort zone where the two sides might be able to come to an agreement. Even if Fiona convinces Gerald to enter her seller’s range, she might still opt to hold out for a better offer from someone else.

The ideal piece of information would be the other side’s reservation price. However, the belief generally is that you should never reveal your own reservation price. The real trick is trying to find that sweet range of ZOPA.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 StarsRate this Article
4.5 out of 5 from 6 responses
  • 0
    Som on

    clearly described!

  • 1
    Emmanuel on

    This really helped, but I will be glad if you could help me with a full document on ZOPA(zone of possible or potential agreement). Thank you.

  • 9
    O.R. on

    ZOPA might almost sound like a foreign word for a cheer of joy. Regrettably, it also sounds exactly like a russian swearword, which literally means “buttocks”, and figuratively means “total failure without possibility for compromise”.

  • 6
    Rina on

    The article was short & very informative….to the point

  • Share your Feedback

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *