BATNA is a negotiators' acronym that stands for “Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement.” Negotiators are constantly assessing their BATNA and the other party’s BATNA. Some will even use it like a noun, as in “We have a lot of BATNA going into this deal.”
What does that mean in common language?
BATNA is options. What will you do if you don’t reach an agreement? What are your options? If you have good, viable options, then you have a strong BATNA. If you don’t have any other options, then you have weak BATNA. The strength of your BATNA determines how aggressive and confident you can be in the negotiation. The key to successful negotiations is developing a strong BATNA. If there are three other jobs that you would take and all will meet your interest list, then you have options and will exude confidence during the interview and negotiation process. You can really push for the extra interests you want. If you have no other offers, and you have to have a job, then you pretty much can only take what they are willing to give you. If you don’t reach a deal, then you have no other options. Developing your BATNA takes planning and effort. This means applying and interviewing at multiple practices and developing relationships concurrently. This means that you will have to turn some people down and this may disappoint them. It also means that you may have to miss out on an exciting feline small bowel diarrhea case in the teaching hospital to go to a job fair. Know that the extra work will be well worth it, developing your BATNA will lead to high job offers and confidence on your part.
Lastly, knowing the other side’s BATNA is a negotiator’s dream. If you know they have to hire and you are the only applicant, then you can strongly push for higher diametrically opposed interests. You can’t shortcut the relationship building, but you can become more aggressive in your calculations for a constructed number.
On the flip side, if you are one of 10 applicants and others have more experience, then you cannot push too hard if you want the job offer. And, after the offer, with an aggressive approach, they may rescind it and move on to another applicant. Their BATNA becomes key information when developing a negotiation strategy.
So get out there and develop your BATNA, do your research and negotiate effectively!