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How to Separate Needs vs. Wants in a Negotiation


How to Separate Needs vs. Wants in a Negotiation

In every negotiation, each side has things they need to have and things they want to have. 

When you walk into a negotiation with a closed mind and think that you’re going to get everything you need and want, the negotiation won’t go well. 

On the other hand, if you go into a negotiation with the correct mindset — meaning that you’re curious about how to meet the needs of the other side without giving up anything that you need or want — you’re much more likely to make a deal.

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Keep reading to learn more about needs versus wants in a negotiation and what you can do to increase the chances you get the outcomes you’re hoping for every time.

Never Split the Difference

Chances are high that you’ve already read the book. It is not called Never Split the Difference by accident. In the world of hostage negotiation where lives are at stake, there is no room for compromise. 

Hostage negotiators draw a line in the sand because they need to get the hostage out. To make that happen without incident, negotiators have to determine what the captor needs and try to come up with a solution that is viable for both sides.

In the business world, the same underlying thinking applies. You might need to make a $1 million deal on your company’s cybersecurity solution with no wiggle room on your price. But if your counterpart isn’t willing to budge on that number, is the deal lost?

Not yet. You need to uncover what the other side truly needs before figuring out the best way forward. 

Determine Needs vs. Wants in Your Counterpart

Unfortunately, most people don’t express their needs outright. They might hint around them, but they won’t come out and say them directly.

So, how exactly can you uncover the other side’s needs in a negotiation? 

It is all about getting to Tactical Empathy™ as quickly as possible. In hearing what your counterpart’s needs and wants are and articulating it back to them, they will know that you understand them.

To do that, Black Swan advocates trying the “quick two-plus-one” tactic: Use a Label™ followed by a Mirror™,  and then end with a Dynamic Silence™

Once your counterpart states their case, use a Label to express the unstated emotions in the conversation: It seems like improving your cybersecurity stance is very important to your company. The other side might respond in the affirmative, telling you that it is a big problem and has been soaking up too many resources. Using a Mirror, you might respond: Too many resources? 

At this point, use Dynamic Silence and count to 10 in your head: one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. They will fill the space with their exact needs. And it is up to you to listen with tactical empathy.  

Here is where you’ve separated their needs (i.e., a robust cybersecurity solution that doesn’t take up so many IT resources) from their wants (i.e., spending less than $1 million). Now, you can package your product in a way that shows them how you can meet their needs and why their wants might not matter so much. When you let us take care of your cybersecurity needs, you’ll have more time to sell your products, be active on social media, add content to your website, and do everything else, too.

All of a sudden, that $1 million price point is much more palatable.

The Power of Low-Stakes Practice

Whenever someone tells you they need or want something, you’re in the middle of a negotiation. Use these opportunities to practice the skills so that you’re ready to knock it out of the park when you find yourself in high-stakes scenarios. 

For example, you might hear this at some point this week: Mom/Dad, I need you to take me to the mall today. You might respond like this: It seems like there is something you really want to get at the mall

You’ll be able to figure out needs (e.g., a new backpack for school) vs. wants (e.g., a new video game) pretty quickly.

If you’re looking to continue sharpening your negotiation skills and get to the next level, sign up for our new three-session online course: Fundamentals of Handling Difficult Negotiations.