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Negotiation – When is the right time to walk away?

What is negotiation? And when is the right time to walk away?

 Ideally, negotiation should be a discussion to achieve the best deal for both parties by working towards a Win-Win result and subsequently maintaining a long-term trusting relationship.

However, have you ever regretted paying so much more than you intended for goods or services; or felt that you obtained far less than you had hoped for during contract or salary negotiations? How about being set ‘impossible’ deadlines?

negotiation course

Would you be able to retain an ongoing relationship with an organisation after being ‘forced into a corner’, rushed into a decision or overcharged; or wish to continue doing business with a company or individual trying to ‘squeeze every last penny’ out of you?

Negotiating is not confined to business and there are numerous occasions in your personal lives when you negotiate with your partner (choosing a restaurant), children (TV time), salespeople etc. When is it time to find another dealership when your car salesman won’t ‘give an inch’; or advertise for another buyer when someone is unwilling to offer a satisfactory price for your precious heirloom?

In all these cases, any agreement tends to be short-term, usually with a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. Even a compromise (meeting halfway), may result in both parties ‘losing’ and walking away unhappy, not caring about the consequences.

Planning for negotiation

How can you work towards a Win-Win outcome to ensure a long-term, productive relationship and a willingness from both sides to engage in future opportunities beneficially?

The key is to plan your strategy in advance, know exactly where your limits lie and, critically, the point at which you will walk away to find a more acceptable solution. Of course, you then need the courage and conviction to do so.

Let’s consider a 3-step approach to a negotiation which could involve money, time frames and/or additional elements/conditions depending on your objectives.

You need to decide on your:

  • Ideal Position
    • The best option or deal for you
  • Realistic Position
    • What you believe both parties will agree to
  • Fallback Position
    • The one you won’t go below (or above)

For example, if you are negotiating to purchase parts from a Supplier, you would start low:

  • Ideally, you would like to pay £5,000
  • Realistically (based on experience and research), £7,000 may be achievable
  • You would not be willing to pay more than £9,000 (Fallback)

The Supplier, however, wishes to sell to you at the highest possible price, so they would start high:

  • Ideally £10,000
  • Realistically £8,000
  • Fallback £6,000 (no less)

These Positions should now allow some flexibility in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement during discussions.

BATNA Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement

Understanding BATNA

In the above case, if the Supplier insists on £10,000, for example, you now have to assess your BATNA since that figure is above your Fallback Position.

Therefore, you are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion and risk sacrificing too much. What is your best alternative and do you wish to maintain your relationship with that Supplier?

  • Decide if and when to walk away
  • Ask for more time to think about it
  • Discuss possible add-ons or incentives
  • Find another Supplier
  • Produce the parts yourself
  • Take legal action

If you apply the above example to buying a car you really like, maybe you can ask for extras (higher spec sound system, longer warranty, free services etc), delay your decision or reluctantly leave to find another dealership (that might even encourage the salesperson to reconsider the price).

The underlying factor is how important you feel it is for you to continue working effectively with the other party.

Find out more about Negotiating Skills with STL.


Prior to a negotiation, ensure you are clear about your objectives and, particularly, the three Positions you are aiming for.

Decide whether you wish to maintain an ongoing relationship with the other party in order to leave your options open for future opportunities together and consider the implications of the BATNA you choose.

If you cannot reach a mutually agreeable outcome, don’t be afraid to walk away in the face of risky and/or unacceptable conditions imposed by the other party.




By Jacob Ahmadzai

Helping businesses improve performance with proven learning and development solutions. London based with a global reach.