Using the Power of Negotiable

By Alex Moskov September 10, 2020 | 4 min read

One of the most important principles of sales negotiation is to satisfy needs over wants, and negotiables serve as one of the primary levers to do so. 

Before we jump into, let’s go over some quick definitions.

A want is something the other party asks you for, something they state, they want something that’s concrete, measurable, and very specific. It’s something that is narrow in focus. For example, a glass of grape juice, a specific report, a $25,000 credit. In fact, because the want is so specific, it can usually only be addressed in a single way. I either get the glass of grape juice, a specific report, a $25,000 credit, or I don’t – simple as that

The main differentiator here is that there is not a lot of room for negotiation, and whatever negotiables you have might not nudge the negotiation to a satisfactory close. 

A need is more abstract, more expansive, and hints at the other party’s underlying motivations. For example, is it even grape juice you want or is the underlying need thirst, which could be satisfied with a soda, a glass of water, or a sports drink? Is it a written report you want or do you need the information in the report which can be delivered in a voicemail? Is it a $25,000 credit that you want or do you need the feeling that you’re successful, secure, or recognized for your contributions?

The key difference between wants and needs is important because uncovering needs means expanding the horizon for different negotiables and achieving an optimal agreement, whereas wants simply put you in tunnel vision. 

A negotiable is anything that can be exchanged for value. Negotiables fall into three categories:

  1. Primary negotiables are the agreed-upon or assumed negotiables in the negotiation (in a business negotiation, this is generally money).
  2. Alternate Negotiables are those that are not so obvious but can still satisfy a need.
  3. “Elegant” negotiables are Alternate Negotiables that cost you little but are highly valuable to the other party. 

Satisfy Needs Over Wants to Exercise Your Negotiables

Anytime you get to underlying needs, you increase the number of possible negotiables, increasing the chances of a favorable settlement

Although the idea of getting to the other party’s underlying needs seems pretty logical if you think about it, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do.

However, with some foresight combined with on-the-ground experience, typical business and personal needs become easier to envision. 

Typical business needs include:

  • Protecting margins
  • Performing within budget
  • Keeping a project on schedule
  • Meeting expectations of internal customers

Typical personal needs include:

  • Looking good to management
  • Reducing risk
  • Managing workload
  • Appearing to be cutting edge
  • Applying new technologies

Your negotiables are your tools to address typical business and personal needs appropriately as the context of each negotiation allows. In order to determine how to do so, you must prepare beforehand. 

List and prioritize all the potential negotiables you might be willing to make by value, which ones will be expensive to give up, and which ones wouldn’t be as costly. Try to label them accordingly to the best of your ability. Primary negotiables will be the easiest, such as money. Alternate negotiables require some creativity, but they also try to address a certain need without giving up too heavy of a concession “Elegant” negotiables are the magic secret weapons that are super valuable to the other party and will cost you very little. 

Final Thoughts

Effective negotiation involves adequate planning, in this case, of your negotiables ranked in their inherent value to the other party minus the costs to you, as well as some creativity to find solutions that advance the needs of both parties in a negotiation. 

In order to deploy your different negotiables, you will first need to frame the negotiation to satisfy needs over wants.


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