Negotiation Without Being a Jerk Pt. II

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

You’re halfway through negotiating a sponsorship deal with a major guitar string company, conversation is fluid and light. Envisioning the bliss that would be free guitar strings sends a flood of warmth through your mind.

Everything feels groovy.

A buzz.

The representative reads the text and her expression darkens.

The room begins to feel colder.

“It looks like the terms we initially proposed to you are off the table. We can only offer you half price or nothing.”

What do you say?

Negotiation is a delicate dance of power and persuasion. While each dancer may have an endless repertoire of moves, it is the beat they bring to the dance that colors their movements. And that beat is called the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

A BATNA provides an anchor for you to determine how valuable the offer currently on the table. How attractive is the offer from the example above when:

  • You have a meeting with another guitar string company in two hours?
  • You’ve already got an offer for a 60% discount?
  • You don’t have any other offer?
  • Your band doesn’t play any guitars?

Notice the nuances of how each BATNA lead you to different strategies.

The dynamics of any interaction change depending on your other options. Getting turned down for an audition hurts much less’ve got three more lined up next week. Greasy diner food sounds a lot better when you haven’t eaten for the last twelve hours.

So how do we use our knowledge of BATNA to improve our negotiations?


1. Getting multiple offers will give you some leverage to negotiate with. Don’t hinge your entire career and happiness on one label, make sure to court a few different labels. The way the field is built is how the game is played. Look back at the example above. Even if your backup offer is something really unimpressive like 5%, this gives you guidelines to determine how good a deal is.

2. Learning to talk persuasively increases others’ perception of your BATNA.Desperation is a stinky perfume. If your language conveys that you don’t value yourself or that your band isn’t that great, the other side of the table will pick up on these cues. It’s not just the actual value of your BATNA that influences your outcome, but the perception of your BATNA. Learn to frame your conversations and issues to present your product (band) in the best light. Appearing confident makes others believe you are confident as most negotiators are not psychic, and this imbued confidence will strengthen your negotiation position. This doesn’t mean be arrogant, as that usually is a bad idea, but being able to clearly and firmly articulate your position will increase the value of your BATNA, even if you don’t have one.

Perception creates reality.

3. Create a list of alternatives to the main deal that you can propose should the main offer become undesirable. Unless you’re working with a vending machine, there are many more ways to win than just in terms of cash. In the next installment of this series we’ll get deeper into this topic.

Previous entries: (Vol 1)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: