Logrolling in Negotiations: 3 Steps You Can Take to Create Value

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Negotiation Genius" by Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s logrolling? How does it create value in a negotiation?

Logrolling means trading negotiation items that both parties value. Understanding what each party cares about most is crucial to nailing down a deal.

Continue reading to learn more about logrolling in negotiation.

Create Value Through Logrolling

You can use what you know about your counterpart’s needs and interests to create value through logrolling. Logrolling in negotiations means trading negotiation items that your counterpart cares about more for things that you care about more. Recognize how your priorities differ, and use those differences to make deals that are agreeable for both sides. For example, if you hate driving in traffic, and your partner dislikes cooking, you might agree to cook dinner while your partner agrees to pick up the kids from school.

(Shortform note: The term “logrolling” is also commonly used in a political sense and describes the practice of legislators exchanging votes to ensure the passage of one another’s bills. Like in negotiations, this requires knowing differences in priorities so that legislators can help one another without sacrificing what they personally deem more important. Unlike in negotiations, however, political logrolling is prohibited in many states in the US.)

Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman’s book Negotiation Genius shares three steps to create value through logrolling.

Step #1: Identify your interests. Since logrolling requires trading between multiple items, you should first make a list of everything you value that the other side may be able to provide (when negotiating the purchase of a home, this could be price, move-in date, inclusion of furniture, and so on). Then, create a scoring system using a common metric, like a number of points out of 100 or a dollar value based on how important each item is to you. This method allows you to compare items more easily and decide whether to accept or reject their offer. 

For example, if the person you’re trying to buy a home from offers to include some furniture in the price of the house (30 points) and lets you move in early (10 points), you might be OK if they don’t renovate their basement ahead of the purchase because you only value that renovation at 20 points. 

Step #2: Identify your counterpart’s underlying interests. Discover their underlying interests by asking yourself why your counterpart is making their demands. This can clue you in to what they really want and help you find other ways to satisfy their needs, especially if you find their demands hard to meet. For example, if your counterpart demands a lower price, you might discover that they’re mostly concerned with wasting money on a faulty product. Instead of lowering your price, you might then offer a warranty.

Step #3: Discuss multiple issues at a time. To create more opportunities for logrolling, the authors suggest you introduce as many issues as you can into the negotiation. These might include timing, quality, price, contract length, warranties, and so on. Discussing multiple issues at a time helps you identify different priorities you and your counterpart have and allows you to make package offers. For example, if you care more about price and your counterpart cares more about timing, you could ask for a higher price for your product but offer to deliver it sooner.

How to Identify and Discuss Interests During a Negotiation

According to Malhotra and Bazerman, logrolling requires identifying both your interests and the other side’s interests to find ways for both sides to win. In Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury also advise a flexible and open-minded approach when figuring out how to reconcile differing interests. They offer additional tips for negotiating with multiple interests and brainstorming creative ways to create value. Let’s compare their advice.

Like Malhotra and Bazerman, the authors of Getting to Yes suggest you look for underlying interests rather than focus on specific demands. When identifying your interests, they suggest you consider what basic human needs you want to meet, such as the desire for security, control, or recognition. Communicate those needs in detail to explain each offer you make. This allows the other side to understand your interests and contribute to brainstorming ways for mutual gain.

To figure out their interests, Fisher and Ury suggest you brainstorm with them. Consider setting up a brainstorming session separate from the negotiation as a time for you and your counterpart to share interests and generate creative options that can meet both of your needs. Try to create many options rather than figure out a single “best” solution.

While Malhotra and Bazerman recommend you consider multiple issues during the negotiation, Fisher and Ury suggest you generate more options before the negotiation. They give four steps to do so: Describe the problem, analyze the problem for potential causes and obstacles to solving it, list various possible strategies, and write down specific actionable steps to solve the problem. This method of thinking allows you to generate many options you can discuss during your negotiation.
Logrolling in Negotiations: 3 Steps You Can Take to Create Value

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Here's what you'll find in our full Negotiation Genius summary:

  • Why a good negotiation depends on your ability to create value
  • How to avoid common negotiation pitfalls and make attractive deals
  • How to decide whether or not to make the first offer

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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