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Can being first ever make you come last?

Florence Kennedy Rolland, Lead Tutor

Faculty Blog

I recently read an article from the school of Roberto Cialdini, the authority on influence.

He recounts a negotiation with Andy Roddick and Lacoste where the first proposal from Lacoste lead to a less than satisfactory outcome.  It posed the question “Are there any situations when making the first offer, rather than serve as an advantage can actually undermine your negotiation outcomes?”  The author of the article certainly seemed to think so.

Andy Roddick at the Legg Mason tennis tourname...

Andy Roddick at the Legg Mason tennis tournament Washington, DC August 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a question I am often asked as a consultant / trainer - who should put down the first offer?

There is a mistaken belief among certain (usually self styled) negotiators, who have had large successes by withholding putting down an offer until the other party has revealed their position, that putting down the first proposal is the worst thing you can do.  They think that putting down an offer will result in their position being eroded, and a less than satisfactory outcome, but by letting the other party go first they can get a better deal.  Their total belief in this approach is usually fuelled by a tale where they “won”a particularly important negotiation using this method.

I am not a fan of this approach.  It can work in the right circumstance, but it is very hit and miss, and not one I would suggest to my clients.

If you have spent enough time doing your work in the preparation and debate phases there is NO REASON not to go first with a proposal - it could even be advantageous as its clearly written on your terms, not theirs.

In this case, the real mistake Lacoste made was in not understanding, correctly, Andy's Interests.  It wasn't a mistake making the first offer:  their first offer was flawed due to poor diligence.

Do you have a first offer tale to tell?