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Negotiating with a Clock

30.03.2009

Patience is the key to favorable negotiationsimg_2904

In a business negotiation, the goal is not to defeat the other side.  Instead, we want to gain favorable conditions for ourselves and have the other side feel good about the final outcome.  If they feel that they in any way lost, then they will try to recover their dignity some time later by making you the loser.

The correct strategy is to ensure very good conditions for you, acceptable conditions for the other side, and then to give them a small gift at the end– like a small chocolate at the end of a nice meal to ensure that the last memory was positive. The difficult part, of course, is to gain the great conditions for yourself with enough buffer so that you will be able to give the ‘gift at the end’. The key is patience and understanding the clock.

If you have ever watched the Italian national soccer team play, you have likely witnessed a devastating display of patience and control of the clock. When you are behind, the clock is your enemy as much as the other team. The Italians are great at getting ahead by one point and making the enemy feel the pressure and fight both.

Large negotiations almost always last longer than expected. Ultimately, most conclude when both sides are simply tired of fighting for position and want to move on with tasks other than the negotiation in front of them. Therefore, the side that is the most in a hurry will be the weaker side when this moment of conclusion comes.  Ok, so how do I ensure that I will be less rushed than the other side?

– First, always make sure that the current draft agreement is in your favor. Every time they make a proposal, respond immediately– even if that means an imperfect response. When the exhaustion point happens, the final decision will likely then start with this draft.

– Second, show that you are eager to proceed and even that there is some cost to them if they wait but never let them see that this cost as too painful. Make them fight you, their own decision processes, and the clock. In the end, you will save them from all three and they will be grateful.

– Third, if the clock swings to their favor e.g. they are now favorably considering an alternative supplier, add new information and complicate the process.. .add time to the clock.  Then you can fight and defeat the competition so that once again the clock is in your favor.

None of these approaches  is a substitute for trust and good value but patience is one of the few weapons that when deployed is least likely to hurt you in the long run.

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