It’s true, I kid you not.  I was recently accosted by someone I’d trained 3 months previously in Negotiation Skills, who called out (across the staff restaurant):  “Look, it’s the BANANA man!”.

That made me pleased.  Why?  Because it means one of my key negotiation models had actually sunk in.

BANANA, otherwise known in pretty well any book on Negotiations you may care to read as a BATNA, is an (I hope highly memorable) acronym for:

Best AlterNative (to) A Negotiated Agreement.

I really should copyright it, it’s so much more visual than yet another acronym.  But I can’t be bothered: life is too short.

The idea is that you should never negotiate without a BANANA in your pocket.  A BANANA is your walk away option.  If you haven’t got one, you are going to have to do the deal that day, on the terms offered.  Banana-less people leak their vulnerability, and the other party can tell.  They are going to get you, and you may regret it.

BANANAS come in all shapes and sizes.  They are walk away options, such as:

  • Being able to do without the item/service in question
  • Being able to go away and think about it
  • Agreeing with the next in command that you are going to walk away on those terms, and when it escalates, they will too
  • Being able to buy it somewhere else.

You can plan your BANANA, just as you need to plan when to put it on the table.  This is when you have reached your Fallback: the point at which the deal is not going to be viable for you.

Here are some tips on the use of BANANAS:

  • Don’t put them out too early.  When you do, it will change the tome of the conversation, and raise the ante.  It’s the equivalent of drawing your sword.  It is at the final stage, when all other options have been explored.
  • Plastic BANANAS work.  If they think you have one, you have one, for the purposes of the transaction.  Perception of Power is Power, and this sure is a means of building your Power.
  • Try not to let yourself go in to negotiate without one.  If you plan nothing else, plan this.

The reason I’m blogging about this today is that I am sitting in an airport lounge, and for some reason I find that airports always put me on edge.  They are a pressure cooker for conflict, and one needs to be on ones’ guard.  I wrote recently about how I had to dig deep to hold my own on a dispute over seating on a long haul flight, and pull out my “IF” tool.  That and my BANANA need to be in my holster at such times.

By the way, for those who read that Blog (and it created a bit of a stir of “I’ve been there too”), I have just booked onto the same flight in January, and bagged exactly the same seat (28D – it’s a cracker).  So if there is once again an aggressive Dutchman using moral blackmail to try and get me to switch to his crappy seat, once again I shall be ready for him!

I do come across lots of people in  business who don’t feel they have many BANANAS.  To them I say get creative, work with others to develop them, and don’t be scared.  It’s a cynical old world, and you are going to need to build personal power in order to survive, let alone thrive.

Footnote;  funny to be writing about Bananas.  My son has just done 3 months’ hard labour in a banana plantation in Northern Australia in order to get a 2nd year on his Visa.  Get this image:  they put sacks over the bananas to help them mature.  When they open the sacks in the warehouse (by hand, naturally), in EVERY sack there is either a frog or a SNAKE!  Some of which are longer than he is tall.  And they have to be manhandled into a bucket for release that night.  Woooah!