win win winWhat is win-win-win

I have met business people who believed in the concept of win-lose.  So long as I win, it doesn’t matter about you.  When you approach a negotiation, e.g. making a sale, reaching agreement with employees, convincing your kids to mow the lawn, etc. with a win-lose mentality it may well be you that loses. Even if you think you have won, you may have damaged the relationship with the other person, sometimes beyond repair.



By definition, in win-lose battles there is a winner and a loser. Each person may see the event as a life-or-death struggle, where the only way to avoid defeat is to win. The relationship with the other person is unimportant as to think kindly of them is to show weakness and expose yourself to defeat.


All our studies and training have told us to win-win.  Make sure both sides win. 


Well, I don’t believe in that


In the world we live in today, I believe it has to go further, so I believe in WIN-WIN-WIN.


The logic works like this. 
In every negotiation, sale, deal or whatever, there are always at least three participants.  If you are the leader in the deal then it’s your job to identify them all.


Lets take an example: you are selling a new wide format machine to a printer.  There are two obvious participants, the buyer and the seller.  However the Bob Tallent logic of win-win-win says that, as the salesperson, it is your job to identify others and to make sure they win also.  If you sell a machine which is wrong for the printer, then he loses in the longer term and so do you because you will be remembered for selling the wrong machine.  If you sell it too dear, then the printer may be stretched & not able to keep up payments.  If you sell it too cheap, then your company loses out.  So where are the other winners?  They could be the printers customers, your suppliers, your shareholders, etc.  So how do you make them win?


Identifying them is the first step. Lets say you identify the printers customers as being important because if the printer can’t sell the right product at the right price, the right quality within the right time, then he doesn’t satisfy his market.  Therefore you have to orchestrate the situation where the printer is able to satisfy his market better using your machine.  The result, you win because you have sold a machine and made a profit, the printer wins because he is able to reach a new or improved market and the printers customer wins because they get products they want at the right price, quality and time.  In addition, your suppliers win and so do your shareholders.


Another situation is where Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reported in August that it offered compensation to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino, a character in MTV's TV show The Jersey Shore to cease wearing A&F products.


A spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch commented:


"We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.  We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino and the producers of MTV's The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand.  We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response."


In this situation, A&F wins, Sorrentino wins, MTV wins because they have publicity and the cast wins.  Four winners.


In a negotiation, no one should agree to anything that is worse for them than what they are likely to get if no deal is reached. Roger Fisher and Bill Ury made this point thirty years ago in Getting To Yes.


You should:


  • figure out what no agreement is most likely going to leave you with,
  • try to generate something (a walk-away) that’s better than that,
  • but when you are in an actual negotiation don’t reject something that’s better than your realistic walk-away, even if it won’t get you everything you’d like to have.


Fisher and Ury called this point of comparison, your Best Alternative to the Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).  


For example, in a HR negotiation, a win-win-win negotiation is something that gets all sides (even the less than obvious ones as described above) an outcome better than their BATNA. It doesn’t necessarily get anyone everything that they might want.  I remember trying to negotiate with 13 unions.  The most I could get around a table at the one time was 10.


Decision analysts, like Howard Raiffa, talk about the same idea in terms of a negotiator’s Reservation Price — the amount that they’ve decided ahead of time they won’t accept “less than” or “pay more than.”  


Putting aside for a moment that BATNAs and Reservation Prices are sometimes hard to estimate or know ahead of time, a win-win-win negotiation can be thought of as a deal in which all sides “gain” relative to their best estimates of their walk-aways.


Now, this can be a good starting point for you researching this topic a stage and becoming a WIN-WIN-WIN expert.


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