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If time’s up, are you prepared to walk away with nothing?

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Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!

In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.
Over the next few months, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

113 Time and timing

Most negotiations have a timetable, a schedule by when things have to happen. Sometimes a timetable is shared or agreed upon beforehand. Sometimes it is different for both parties. And sometimes the parties choose not to disclose their timetables. Knowing the other party’s timetable can give an advantage in a negotiation. A timetable means a deadline and time-pressure. And knowing the pressure the other party may be under to complete a negotiation can allow you to exert pressure by prolonging the negotiation. It depends on who needs or desires the deal more, and who is more willing to walk away with nothing.

But you having a deadline can also be used to pressure the other party. For example, “I’m sorry, but my time is running out. If we can’t reach an agreement in the next twenty minutes, I’ll have to call it quits.” When the time runs out, you must be willing to get up from the table and, if necessary, walk away. Time is only power when you control the timing or when you’re willing to walk away. Conversely, when the time is in the other party’s hands, the power of time becomes your enemy.

Timing also involves the temporal viability of a product, service etc. Yesterday’s hotel room or cinema seat has zero value today. An unbooked airline seat has zero value once the airplane takes off. A carton of milk has zero value when the “sell by” date passes. These items have maximum value to the seller when someone desires to purchase them, and minimum value when it looks like no one is interested or a “sell by” date is approaching.

Thus timing can be crucial to a successful negotiation when temporal viability or timetable pressures are involved. And the two are frequently related. So, it’s important to know the timing you require to achieve all of your objectives and helpful to know the timetable pressures under which the other party is operating.

Great negotiators learn to discern the timetable pressures affecting the other party, and how to apply that pressure effectively. They learn when to push forward, slow down, or back off during a negotiation. They learn to monitor their own timetable so that they don’t end up negotiating under deadline pressure and having to make disadvantageous compromises because their time is running out. Holding out until the final few moments of a negotiation can be beneficial if the pressure is on the other party but it can be costly to you if you are approaching the expiration date.

Time is only crucial when a deadline has negative consequences at the end. Deadlines with no reprieve, such as an approaching hurricane or a terminal illness, are non-negotiable. But deadlines imposed by people are often negotiable; they can be shifted by people. Placing a deadline on others that has real consequences if not met gives you power only to the degree that you can enforce those consequences. Having power in this position allows you to make additional demands as the clock ticks away towards the “witching hour.”

If you’re being pressured to meet a deadline, you can either challenge that deadline and try to push it back, submit to it and accept the penalties if it isn’t met, reject it entirely and accept the consequences, or walk away. It’s a judgment call on your part as to which course ultimately benefits you the most.

Time investment is often a factor in a negotiation. Time invested in any negotiation creates an unspoken commitment between the parties. The more time invested, the more committed you’re likely to be to the outcome, and the stronger the relationship you’re likely to develop with the other party. All this can create a sense of obligation or expectation that can become a force in the negotiation, making it harder to say no or change your mind.

It is possible to use the pressure of time invested to your advantage by stretching out a negotiation or using delaying tactics, thus increasing any sense of pressure, urgency, or obligation in the other party, who then may be willing to accept “half a loaf” rather than leave empty-handed. But “stretching the time” requires sensitivity and finesse. You don’t want to push this tactic so far that you anger or alienate the other party.

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