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“Precise” Offers Provide Negotiation Advantage

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

Opening negotiation offers typically “anchor” the discussion and shape settlement values.
Many people make opening offers in “round” numbers like $10 instead of “precise” numbers like $9.
However, “round number offers” were less effective than “precise” offers in negotiations, found Columbia’s Malia Mason, Alice J. Lee, Elizabeth A. Wiley, and Daniel Ames.

Y Charles Zhang

Y Charles Zhang

Negotiators can improve their outcomes by specifying offers in precise values.
Precise first offers more potently anchored the negotiation range than round number proposals, and people who proposed precise offers were perceived as more confident, credible, and “well-informed” regarding actual value.

Norbert Schwartz

Norbert Schwartz

Similarly, consumers have less confidence in precise estimates when they doubt the communicator, found University of Michigan’s Y. Charles Zhang and Norbert Schwarz of University of Southern California.

A drawback of precise offers is that some co-negotiators perceive them as “inflexible.
Despite this risk, people who received precise offers generally made more conciliatory counter-offers, leading to smaller adjustments and more favorable final settlements.
Precise offers also led to better final deals even when the negotiator opened with a less ambitious precise offer.

Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Another benefit of precise offers is that they are less likely to be seen as aggressive or greedy by a co-negotiator, according to INSEAD’s Martin Schweinsberg collaborating with Gillian Ku and Madan M. Pillutla of London Business School’s and Cynthia S. Wang of Oklahoma State University.
Ambitious first offers may lead an impasse or stalled progress toward settlement if a negotiation partner takes offense or walks away from talks.

Gillian Ku

Gillian Ku

This risk of stalled negotiation increases if negotiators see themselves in a lower-power position and receive an extreme offer.
These negotiators can be more willing to end negotiations,

Manoj Thomas

Manoj Thomas

Precise offers may obscure their actual value, found Cornell’s Manoj Thomas and Vrinda Kadiyali with Daniel H. Simon of Indiana University.
Buyers underestimated the size of precise prices, particularly under uncertain conditions:  U.S. homebuyers paid more when list prices were precise, and volunteers said they would follow this strategy in buying a home.

Vrinda Kadiyali

Vrinda Kadiyali

Precise offers provide some of the benefits of favorably anchoring negotiation discussions while reducing risks of “offensive” extreme offers.

-*How effective have you found “precise” opening offers in achieving your negotiation goals?

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©Kathryn Welds