Negotiating while Making Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers: THE MESO STRATEGY

Negotiating and Bargaining
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

Negotiating while Making Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers: THE MESO STRATEGY

In business negotiations, when each side roots firmly in its position, there seems to be no way forward. Medvec and Galinsky describe a strategy of "Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers" (MESO) which may help negotiators break through such deadlock and find common ground.

  • When presenting more than one offer at a time, negotiators are likely to increase their counterpart’s satisfaction and boost the possibility of coming to agreement as well.
  • MESOs reveal a genuine keen on accommodation and cooperation, therefore allow negotiators to be both respected and liked.
  • A MESO strategy also provides opportunity for negotiators to understand the other side’s interests that are hard to ascertain through direct questioning.
Below a four-step approach for preparing a MESO negotiation strategy.
  1. Create a scoring system that allows qualitative comparison of different issues;
  2. Track priorities on the various issues by using a spreadsheet. Decide how important each issue is and put a relative weight in percentage on it;
  3. Search for the available options within each issue; and
  4. Assign points to each option to reflect negotiators’ specific preferences.
The scoring system will help people to generate MESOs, each with different components but all with roughly the same value in total. Consequently, negotiators will present their MESOs with confidence, knowing that they will be satisfied if their counterpart chooses any of them (or a particular one to negotiate further).

Additional tips for people on using MESOs in business negotiations include:
  • Keep it to three. Study finds that a package of three equivalent, simultaneous offers help people to acquire valuable information from the counterpart without overwhelming him with too many choices.
  • Make the first option more aggressive than the ideal outcome.
  • Show flexibility. When the other party says none of the offers work for him, encourage him to indicate which offer most closely meets their needs and explain that there are numerous ways to construct your deal.
  • Counterbalance information disclosed by MESOs by anchoring your offers.
  • Allow some wiggle room for further negotiation in each offer.
In business negotiation, have you ever used a similar strategy as MESOs to prepare several concurrent proposals and how did that work for you?

Source: Medvec, V. H. & Galinsky, A. D. How to Use MESOs in Business Negotiations, Program of Negotiation, Harvard Law School, July 2016.

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