Why you need a ‘walk-away’ negotiation strategy

As consultants we regularly talk to people on either side of the same negotiation - and we often notice that both sides view their position as uniquely negative or disadvantaged. The conclusion being that generally there is scope in most negotiations for us to feel more positive than we currently do and more hopeful than we have previously been - perhaps we have more power than we have to date assumed.

As a negotiator, part of your power comes not only from your terms, but also from the ‘walk away’ point of the negotiation. Far from being a weakness, walking away is actually something you can use as a strength.

So, here's why you should always have a ‘walk away’ negotiation strategy:

Understand Your Value: Understand When to Walk Away

I was checking the prices of video cameras on “eBay”, the internet auction site, and I watched with interest an individual who actually paid more for a second-hand video camera than he would have paid for a new one at the store (I know, I checked the same camera retail). Curious behaviour, but not particularly uncommon.

Why does this happen?

For some people, the need to do the deal becomes more important than the deal itself. At Scotwork we describe this as “deal focus” – and this is one of the most common mistakes in negotiation. But that’s not the only reason. Paying more than market value, accepting less than we need, signing up to an unworkable deal, can all happen if we are insufficiently prepared with a walk away negotiation strategy.

Define the ‘Walk Away’ Point

Before the meeting, before the negotiation or in this case before the auction, negotiators define a “walk away point”, or limit point or position - a “must get” or “must avoid” in which they must both believe and upon which they must be willing to walk away in a negotiation. If you don’t do this, you will potentially agree to something you really can’t do or miss a deal you could make work. This is a crucial part of negotiation skills development.

Preparation means many things to many people but without doubt the most difficult element of preparation is for us to be clear in our minds, the conditions under which we would leave the room, at what point should we say “thanks” to the other side but decline the “opportunity” – a walk away point in a negotiation. Beyond what price or condition should we keep our hand in our pocket at the auction?

>Use the Walk Away Point in a Negotiation to Your Strengths

Not infrequently, Scotwork clients will describe a situation where a large percentage of their business, sometimes even a majority of their turnover sources from one particular client relationship.

They say things like, “this client is so important to us that I cannot imagine losing them” in which case we say that this is not a beneficial client to service provider/supplier relationship - because without having defined a walk away point, unfortunately they will give their client whatever they ask for. In truth as a result of not being “prepared” to walk away, with a concrete walk-away negotiation strategy, they become a victim.

Being willing to walk away in a negotiation, when achieved correctly, can be a strength rather than a weakness.