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How many different proposals should I communicate?

If you are involved in a negotiation in which you will have more than one opportunity to communicate with the other side (i.e., not an automated reverse auction or RFP), then you should generally lead with one proposal: your “realistic best case proposal.” Why is this? Because if you communicate multiple proposals, you risk undermining the other person’s confidence in your recommendations. (The other person may wonder, “Which of these multiple proposals is really the best?”) Once you understand the other side’s interests, you should propose a solution that will sufficiently satisfy those interests and also satisfy your own interests well. Your proposal should be thoughtfully constructed and precisely communicated. It should be “realistic” in that it should be attractive enough to the other side that it will receive a welcome response. It should also represent your “best case” in that it should be very good for you. After you have communicated your “realistic best case” proposal, you can always engage in dialogue with the other side about how to improve the package so as to satisfy various critical stakeholder interests more effectively.

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