Value Driven Negotiation - Identify Interests Behind Positions

Welcome to Value Driven Negotiation - Identify Interests Behind Positions

Welcome to Value Driven Negotiation - Identify Interests Behind Positions

There are a total of six tutorials in this learning series. This is the fourth tutorial in the series.

  • Value Driven Negotiation Overview
  • Discover and Prove Value
  • Set the Stage
  • Identify Interests Behind Positions
  • Clarify Issues and Values
  • Present Positions and Trades to Reach Decision (incorporates Stages 4 and 5)

Learning Objectives

By the end of the Identify Interests Behind Positions tutorial you will:

  • Be able to clarify all positions a Client has or may take in negotiating.
  • Formulate questions that will uncover the interest and motivations behind Client positions.
  • Understand how to plan a negotiation around interests instead of positions.

Positions and Interests

Definition - Positions and Interests


  • Position takes the form of a requirement, demand or specification to satisfy their interests.
          - For example, a Client wants you to slash prices by 10% and extend payment terms.
  • Interests are the needs, ambitions, desires, and goals that people would like to realize; or the needs and wants that underlie stated positions.
           - For example, a Client wants a 5% discount (Position) as she wants to impress her boss with her “firm” negotiating stance (Interests).
             -  A Client is demanding more frequent reporting (Position). The driving interest is that she needs a subset of the data (not all of it) on a weekly basis to track a new product launch.

Positions and Interests Considerations

The skill is asking more questions to clarify and prioritize the Client Negotiator’s interests before trying to declare your opening positions.

This is an important safeguard to being drawn into premature bargaining.

Confusing interests, what they really want, with positions, what they say they want, is easy to do and negotiators can find this difficult, especially if they feel they don’t have much power.

  • For example, positions are given as if they are non-negotiable and those who are not prepared will accept it as fixed.
  • Low confidence means that questions are not planned and/or not used to probe to find out what is really negotiable and what is just posturing to gain advantage.

The result for the unwary is every time a position is assumed to be fixed, by either side, the probability of tension and defensiveness increases. Resulting in a less satisfactory negotiation outcome.

Aligning Questions to Interests

Often Clients will start by declaring their requirements (their positions) for a deal. This can be a mix of:

  • Procurement policy and procedure.
  • Competitor-created positions.
  • Their ideas for a good solution.
  • Demonstrating their power.

Negotiating tactics based on taking a firm position will limit your ability to get what you want. Using a collaborative approach will help you to identify underlying interests behind the Client’s positions. Working collaboratively will also help you to gain agreement during discussions of different as well as common interests. 

Overall keep focused on your own interests rather than positions so that areas of opposition can be seen in a larger context of interests that are shared and that can be satisfied.

In a negotiation, it is important to be able to distinguish between positions and interests - both yours and the Client’s. Below are additional thoughts on how to uncover interests.

Questions to Align Interests

At this stage of negotiating resist the temptation to agree with a position. Be prepared to say: “I would like to understand how you see the whole deal first before considering how we could accommodate your (request, demand etc.)”. Your focus as a Nielsen Negotiator is to:

Ask questions to clarify why they take the positions they do, what they want to accomplish, and how.

Ask yourself why you want what you want to ensure you know what your real goals are which could open up better deals for you. Then, ask questions to separate your Client’s positions and interests. When the Client states a position, always ask questions like:

  • How does that help you meet your deadline, or profitability or productivity goals?
  • Why do you need that? What's your reasoning?

Rigorously probe to establish how the Client prioritizes their interests.

Talk about interests rather than positions, especially those you have in common.

Workbook Activity - Case Study - Questions to Uncover Interests

  • Open your local copy of the Value Driven Negotiations Workbook and turn to page 48, Interests Behind Positions.
  • Review the Case Study and identify up to 5 possible Positions that the Client will take.
  • Consider the possible Interests underlying the Client Positions.
  • Use the table in the workbook to prepare questions that will help you to confirm whether your assumptions are correct, and if not, what the real positions and interests are.



Once you have successfully “Set the Stage, you should be looking to clarify your Client’s needs.

This is your opportunity to confirm or validate:

  • What they want;
  • Why they want it;
  • Which “interests” are most important to them.

Clarify the difference between your Client’s positions (wants and demands) and interests (why they are making the demand), and then negotiate on interests rather than positions.

Identify Interests Behind Positions - Reflection

In your workbook, on page 49, is the Negotiation Checklist. Take a few minutes to rate how ready you are to negotiate, in relation to Positions and Interests, with the case study client.

Next, consider and answer the following questions related to your own Clients:

  • What will you do to better identify Interests behind Positions?
  • How will you clarify your Client’s Positions?
  • How will you prepare questions to uncover Client Interests?

Next Steps

The next tutorial in this series will cover how to Clarify Issues and Values.

During this tutorial you completed activities in your workbook. Be sure to save your changes on your local computer. You will use this same file again in the next tutorial.



Thank you for participating in this training. Your completion will be recorded in your learning plan and your manager will be notified.

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