Meeting Mentor Magazine

September 2022

Research from Columbia Business School

Add a ‘Bolstering Range’
To Your Negotiating Toolkit

Putting a range on the table can be a smart move in a negotiation, two Columbia Business School professors explain in a recent research paper. “The notion that negotiators focus exclusively on the elements of an offer that suit their needs” — either the lower or upper number of a range — “is…what negotiation teachers and textbooks have counseled for decades. But we’re now convinced that this view is at least partly wrong.”

Daniel Ames, Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Business Management, and Malia Mason, Gantcher Associate Professor of Business Management, conducted a series of studies. They found that “those who opened with a bolstering range ended up securing higher final settlement prices than those who opened with point offers or other kinds of range offers.”

A bolstering range according to the researchers, begins at the point offer and stretches in a more ambitious direction, higher for sellers, lower for buyers. Essentially, both numbers in a range have an effect, “because they shape offer-recipients’ views of the offer-maker’s limits.” Another reason: Those receiving bolstering range offers “thought it would be rude to respond aggressively.” So they “often countered with a less assertive price than those who received point offers.”

“Bumped-up point offers” of a single, more ambitious number did worse than expected because “those using them reached an impasse with their counterparts nearly twice as often.”

What does this all mean to meeting planners who are often attempting to negotiate room rates down rather than up? The tactic described works for both buyers and sellers across a range of negotiation situations, the authors told MeetingMentor. Example: Assuming the point offer you make is $100, bolstering sellers would offer their more assertive $100-$120. Bolstering buyers would offer their more assertive $80-$100.

“If you’re attempting to book a meeting space at $1,000, stretch that in an even lower direction of $800 to $1,000,” said Ames. “You can bracket that number, offering $900 to $1,100, but that often leads to a deal that’s no better or worse. If your main priority is getting the lowest price, go with bolstering.” — Maxine Golding

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About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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