The Importance of Being Ambitious

An ambitious opening proposal sets the tone for the entire negotiation

The DEALS Method™ is advantageSPRING’s signature system for brilliant negotiation. Today, we’re exploring the Establish phase and an essential negotiation technique for reaching your best deal.

During the creation of strategy in the Establish phase of a negotiation, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where to open the negotiations. The science of anchoring tells us that making the first offer in a negotiation will mean that you’re more likely to get a result that’s preferential to you – but the precise make-up of that first offer will play a big role in what exactly that result is.

Open Ambitiously.

Creating an ambitious opening position requires a firm grasp on the facts, figures and flavour of a negotiation as well as an understanding of the relationships at play. One of the most essential techniques for a negotiator, it can also leave some feeling disingenuous, or as though they’re sandbagging. The result? Opening proposals that are hesitant and overly conservative.

Opening ambitiously is important because:

You can explore what’s possible
There’s an unspoken – yet accepted – game that’s played in a negotiation, as both sides being discussions with offers that are ambitious and highly preferential to their own desired outcomes. Over the course of subsequent proposals and discussion, each side gleans additional information about priority and the other’s willingness to be flexible. Being ambitious in where you begin discussions is a great way of testing the water and ensuring that you’ve adequately explored what your best possible deal will be.

You have room to play
Opening discussions with a proposal that’s only 1 or 2 moves away from your least acceptable outcome doesn’t give you much room to play in the negotiation. In the volley of proposals, running out of room to be flexible or adjust your Takes and Gives means that you’ll have increased pressure to get the deal done. This pressure can result in sub-par agreements. Being ambitious in your opener means that you have more time to create value in your negotiations.

How Ambitious is Too Ambitious?

Key to establishing your opening position is ensuring that it’s ambitious – but credible. During the Discovery phase you’ll have uncovered a great deal of information about the negotiation at hand, the relationships involved and the various elements coming into play. Based on all of this information, you’re looking to set an opening proposal that pushes the boundaries (and your comfort zone potentially) without being ludicrous. There’s no surefire formula for determining where that line is drawn, and it will be different for each negotiation.
However, experience has shown the advantageSPRING team that in most cases the worry shouldn’t be that the offer is too ambitious – since many negotiators frequently open well below that mark.

To help you set an ambitious opener, consider:
Best In Class industry standards. Does your proposal measure up

Are you scaling back your offer avoid confrontation or rocking the boat?

Supporting data.
Can you back up the proposal you’re making?

Existing agreements.
Are you being limited based on what happened last time?

Self-limiting behaviour.
Is the little voice in your head piping up?


There are additional resources on the DEALS Method™ on the advantageSPRING blog, including: Creative Negotiation Prep, Making a Negotiation Playbook, and Avoiding the Negotiation Danger Zone.