One thing that we all come across more often than we may want is having to negotiate. Negotiating can seem super scary if you’re someone who sees it as confrontational and/or are more of an agreeable person at heart. It can be daunting to have to negotiate the salary of a new job or a contract with one of your clients. There are times when you’ll even need to negotiate something as simple as where to take your next vacation. Maybe you want to go to the beach and maybe your partner wants to go to the woods.

As a business owner – aka the BOSS – you’ll be spearheading negotiations for you and your business. But not to fear, like any skill this can be developed and improved over time. As I’ve evolved within my career, I’ve learned a few different negotiation tactics, but it continues to be a constant battle for me. So don’t feel like you’re the only one who feels uncomfortable negotiating at times – especially for yourself. But here’s one approach I’ve learned, developed by negotiation researchers Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, that may help you too: Understanding your BATNA.

BANTA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, which is essentially your fall-back option if you don’t come to an agreement. If you have to walk away from a deal, you need to know what you’ll be walking toward after getting up from your seat at the negotiating table.

Why It’s Important

It’s important that you think through your BATNA as you prepare for any negotiation. This gives you some personal power and you don’t have to feel like it’s “deal or no deal.” Many of us know that involving emotion can hinder our ability to negotiate thoughtfully and with confidence, but can be a particularly hard factor to remove when we really care about what’s at stake. Since power, confidence, and the willingness to walk away is important in a negotiation, this will help you to not get strong-armed by a more seasoned negotiator. They may not know that you already have something up your sleeve.

Identifying Your BANTA

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of alternatives to a negotiated agreement

First thing is to brainstorm a list of what your alternatives would be if the negotiation was to end without agreement. Let’s say you are an interior designer and you need to negotiate your services with a prospective client. Your worst case scenario: you don’t get the client.

Examples could be:

  • If you don’t get their business, you could spend that month on another client project that you had planned to push off to next month. You could bring that work forward and have guaranteed revenue. Perhaps that work is worth close to this new client’s project.
  • You could use that month to generate leads with other potential new clients. That could generate future business.
  • You could take time to work on some internal business process improvements that you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t had the time.
  • Or you could take time that month to plan a vacation – maybe something you’ve been putting off for a while and know you deserve.

Step 2: Select the best alternative

Of all the alternatives you’ve listed, which one stands out clearly as the best for you? In this example, perhaps the best is pulling fwd the other client work since you need the income.

Step 3: Strengthening your BATNA

Now that you’ve identified your BATNA, you’ll want to make it as strong as possible. The stronger your BATNA, the more power you have (that you can translate into confidence) to negotiate for even more favorable terms, because you know you have something equally, if not better, to fall back on if the deal doesn’t work out.

In this example, perhaps pulling the other client work forward will even put you in a favorable position with them and they’ll be delighted not only by the quality of your work but the commitment to beating the agreed upon schedule. Perhaps this other client is a big-name client too and will refer you to others and even agree to write a testimonial about your work ethic and quality. Happy clients are best for business!

Know Your Walk Away Position

Once your BATNA is identified, strongly consider your motivating factors and your walk-away position. Your walk-away position is the least favorable point at which you’d accept a deal. Both BATNA and walk-away position are concepts you need to know as you prepare for a negotiation, especially whether money is a main contributing factor or not. Know your worth!

A Bird in Hand is Better Than Two in the bush!

The last little bit of advice I’ll leave you with is a word of caution: be careful to ensure your BANTA is really something you can fall back on. It’s best that you know what’s really within reach before you give up a good deal.


lisa val verde



During her 10+ years marketing everything from concept to commercialization on a global landscape, Lisa has found that her greatest opportunity is to empower and encourage any woman with a burning passion and a desire for change to pursue whatever lights her spirit on fire. With Wildernest, Lisa is able to help other women break down their own walls to achieve their full potential, and enable a community of passionate women to create thriving businesses and become catalysts for change.

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