When comparing several options, we encounter problems on which items to give away and trade against, especially if the units of measurement vary or if some are unquantifiable. Is there a way to best resolve this? Secondly, how do we determine acceptability of the other party, so plans become more meaningful? –Carmen of a multi-national company
Negotiators seeking optimal, multi-perspective wins feel the same way you do.  Incidentally, the pervasiveness of this issue prompted me to develop negotiation mathematics as early as the 1990’s.  So why is this dilemma so common in negotiations?

It would undoubtedly be so simple and straightforward if all concession options can be translated to currency amounts. Unfortunately, some can’t and others will entail complex computations only rocket scientists can concoct, much less decode.  The everyday corporate Pedro and entrepreneurial Petra trying to balance profit maximization with customer satisfaction, in the light of multiple issues that threaten them to an impasse, actually require a quick-to-use system that can reduce to a few minutes three sleepless nights of pre-encounter worry.  It behooved me then to come up with several methods and to test them out first. After more than a decade of successful field applications, I incorporated the tool’s final version in my Mansmith course: “Effective Negotiations and Influencing Skills” in November 2008.  But before we talk mathematics, let’s get something out of the way.

The mere mention of mathematics petrifies 90% of the population. Even I used to be, until I realized that math was easier to learn, provided one pays attention to the professor’s demonstrations and did exercises thereafter.  I guess it all boils down to attitude towards mathematics.  Once we change this attitude, a whole slew of life’s tools become accessible. In my case, this changed attitude was reinforced further after meeting and marrying the former Ginaline Aliazas, one of the country’s best mathematics mentors, who is a co-author of several math books in UP and an UPCAT review master.  After seeing students line up after class to seek exercises from her, I learned the best methods to teach mathematics that optimize students’ desire to learn.  Henceforth, I was able to use math to translate real world business dynamics to simple mathematical expressions and equations enabling laymen to better understand and manage business and negotiations. So, how can Nego-math help us?

Given that not all concessions can be compared directly in a quantitative manner, Mansmith’s Nego-math addresses just that:

1)  The tool prescribes listing down all concession items for each side.
2)  Each item on your concession side is rated with a value relative to all the items both in terms of giving them away or the other party’s receiving the item. This should also be done for the other side’s concession items.
3)  After accomplishing both sides’ concession valuation, it becomes easier to make deal matches and comparisons, and in the end, each concession exchange scenario will yield a net value for each negotiating side.

If the valence is positive, that means a win, if negative, a loss. Thus each scenario can be analyzed for acceptability of either party even before actual negotiation execution. (Mansmith’s Effective Negotiation and Influencing Skills Course provides a detailed discussion and demonstration.) Some simple numerical analysis is also possible to determine unnecessary costs in a negotiation situation.
By using this tool, planning negotiations becomes more scientific and less open to regrettable mistakes. It also plugs negotiation-related profit leaks.  It likewise prevents launching offers and counter-offers that unnecessarily create undue tension, irritation and even insult to the other party and best of all, shows the negotiator how to plan multi-perspective win possibilities that lead to faster, fair agreements with the least relationship friction. 

Because fairness in the face of mutual optimization is easiest attained with nego-math, this allows you to be a great negotiator with your values remaining intact. The paradox is that: the more you are guided by the tool toward fairness, the more you are likely to have optimal agreements.  Like what I said in my previous articles, great negotiators need not trade off nego-success against going to heaven.  Now, would you like to see that also collapsed to a simple mathematical equation?
 Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. and is the developer/training master of Selling Science and 3 Negotiation Courses (Tactical, Strategic and Language of Negotiation), where related framework, processes, strategies and tools can exclusively be learned. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to mentors@mansmith.net. You can also visit www.mansmith.net, add us in Twitter @mansmithmentors, or join us in Facebook (Mansmith and Fielders).