Back Up!

By B_Zedan via

As promised, we’re getting back into the groove of a more regular schedule around these parts.  “More regular” means a couple things: (1) less than a month will separate posts and (2) between now and the end of the year, you can expect a minimum of five brand spanking new WMFH posts.

Tell your friends, family & fellow artists in arms: The Blog, she is back up!

Rather than jump into a complicated post on negotiation jujitsu, let’s ease ourselves back into this, what say?  How about a nice, wholesome reminder of one of your very best negotiating friends: your back-up plan.

In the past when I’ve talked about back-up plans, I’ve used the term “BATNA.”  BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.”  It is a fancy negotiation term we negotiators use when talking about negotiate-y things around the negotiated water cooler.

But you don’t have to.

BATNA just means “What I’m going to do if this doesn’t work out” — it’s just your back-up plan for a negotiation.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and assume that you aren’t negotiating for kicks.  That you’re not bored and looking for an emotionally  draining activity that requires conflict, introduces the possibility of gaining (or losing) large amounts of money and will make you question your self-worth based on things outside of your control.

No.  You are negotiating for a reason.  And that reason is that by putting yourself through this process you will be closer to getting something you really want: your goal.

By Martin_Heigan via

Goals are big things like: Publishing the Story I’ve Been Working on for Five Years or Being a Self-Sufficient Artist.  They aren’t things that are achieved in a  single negotiation — they require a lot of smaller negotiations in order to happen.  Each of those smaller negotiations provide you with things that can help you reach your goal — money, connections, tools and, yes, even exposure.  Those are your interests — the things you need for fulfillment of your goal.

But, Katie, I thought this post was about Back-Up Plans?

Dear Reader: Your back-up plan is how you make sure you can still reach your goal regardless of how the negotiation you are in plays out.

By asterix611 via

First: Think about your back-up plan before you start negotiating.  Most people end up compromising in negotiations not because they think it’s the right thing to do, but because they think it is the only thing to do.  Failing to think of alternatives before you start negotiating traps you into thinking that the negotiation is the only way to solve the problem.  There are about three problems in the world that only have one solution, and your problem isn’t it.  Promise.

By David Reece via

Second: Keep your eyes on the prize, your goal.  Your back-up plan should be something that you actually want to do because it will get you to your end result.  If you build a back-up plan that you don’t want to do, you will accept crappier terms in the negotiation to avoid your back-up plan.  You only want to compromise in a negotiation if the compromise helps you achieve your goal in a way you won’t be able to otherwise.   You never want to compromise to avoid having to do something else.

Third: Be choate in your back-up plan.  You don’t want your back up plan to fall through because your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin Sam forgot to get that thing from that guy.  The less you have to depend on others for your back-up plan to work, the easier you’ll be able to put it into action when you need an escape hatch from your negotiation.  Remember: your back up plan is helping you achieve your goal.  You want to be able to use that puppy quickly & easily.

Finally: be creative!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with people who have sworn up, down, and sideways that they only way to fix their problem is through a successful negotiation when in fact there were several other things they could have done.  As soon as you start thinking of your problem as special and unique, is when you start cutting off options for yourself.  Push yourself by boiling down your interests to their elements: do you really need Jim to pay you?  Or do you need money?  Do you want access to this particular studio?  Or do you want to work with other professionals?  Find out what’s at the heart of your interest and brainstorm ways that you can accomplish that outside of the negotiation.

I don’t care what you call it — BATNA, Back-Up Plan, Plan B, Fall Back Position, or The Thing I Can Do if I Can’t Do This — just have one.  Have one before you start negotiating.  Have one that helps you achieve your goals.  Have one that you can accomplish on your own.  Have one.  It will make your negotiations, and life, a whole lot easier.

Categories: Negotiation Strategy

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