How to Master the Waiting Game in Negotiations


Have you ever felt pressured to make a quick decision in a negotiation? Suppliers often use month, quarter and year-end deadlines to force you to make concessions.

Your own back table might have a deadline that they'd like to meet as well.

These manufactured deadlines are often just tactics that either side will use to get things to go their way.

But your job as the negotiator is not just to close the negotiation on schedule — it's to get the terms your organization wants.

In this video, I'll show you how to push back on artificial deadlines by asking one simple question.

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Video Transcript

I have a confession to make...

I’m a terrible cook. I really have no business being anywhere near a kitchen unless I'm there to wash dishes.

But through my many, often hilarious, escapades in the kitchen, I've learned one important lesson. Cooking requires patience.

Because no matter how hard I try (and I've tried), I can't make water boil or bread toast any faster than the natural laws of physics will allow.

Negotiation is no different. It also requires patience… lots of patience.

Organizations will pressure negotiators to turn up the heat with suppliers because they feel it's taking too long to get a contract done. And suppliers will often use end of month/quarter/year deadlines to force the customer to concede on other, sometimes more valuable, points in the negotiation.

Good negotiators recognize that this is an inevitability and plan for it accordingly.

Because patience, when viewed as a skill rather than a personality trait, can be honed and sharpened like any other tool in the negotiators toolkit. 

Here's a simple way to practice patience when faced with impending deadlines in a negotiation: ask what will happen if the deadline isn't met.

It's quite surprising how often organizations will rush to get a contract signed by a specific date but have a hard time justifying the urgency.

One easy way to gauge the implications of an imposed deadline is to ask what will happen on the day after the deadline, if the contract isn't signed.

It's a tough question to ask because negotiators, especially those in a procurement role, are often told “yours is not to question why, yours is but to do or die.”

So asking why something has to be done by a certain date can seem rebellious.But with the right context, that same question can also demonstrate the strategic thought process of an elite negotiator.

For example, before asking about the deadline, first lay out some of the most critical points in the negotiation which you expect the other side to push back on.

Then ask what happens if the deadline's missed so that you can weigh the importance of the deadline against the other points to be negotiated.

Armed with this information during negotiations, your back table will see you as a master strategist while the other side thinks you have the patience of a saint.All it takes is the guts to ask one simple question.

Go ahead and try it out. And we’ll see you in a few days to talk about Skill #4 – Knowing when to lead and when to follow

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