I’ve Met The Negotiating Devil And He Lives In the Details

The devil may have made the other side of the table do it
The devil may have made the other side of the table do it

You can trust the other side of the table when you are negotiating with them, right? I mean sure, we’ll all try to get a leg up during the negotiations and use as many negotiation styles and negotiating techniques as we possibly can in order to get the best deal, but once the negotiation process is over everything will be cool, right? As wise men have said, it’s not over until it’s over and this counts double for a sales negotiation…

Can You Say Fine Print?

When we say that we are trying to reach a deal when we engage in a sales negotiation, what are we really talking about? Is it that we’re trying to get to that moment at the negotiating table where you look into the eyes of the other side and say “I think that I can live with that” and then you both shake hands?

The answer is, of course, no. The deal that was negotiated with the other side of the table is the one that is written down. The negotiation definition says that all that counts are the words that are put on the paper that finally gets signed by both sides – not the discussions that we had during the negotiations.

That’s why so many negotiators can get tripped up when they don’t do the final step in a negotiation: reviewing the draft written proposal in order to make sure that it accurately reflects what the negotiators agreed to.

It is far too easy for negotiators to leave “the details” to the legal or contracts team to finalize. However, since they may not have been involved in the actual negotiators, they may not fully understand what the two sides agreed to.

Additionally, the written document provides the other side of the table with the perfect opportunity to claw back some of the concessions that they made during their negotiations with you. If they offer to use a boilerplate document to create the final agreement, be very careful. Their boilerplate may contain a lot of words that create a better deal for them than for you.

How To Get The Devil Out Of Your Details

The worst kind of surprise is the one that you get when a deal is being executed and something happens that you didn’t expect. A payment is late, a delivery doesn’t arrive, or a price is higher than you expected. When you go to complain to the other side, they point out that what they’ve done is covered by the contract that you signed.

When you check the contract, it turns out that they are correct. What happened is that there was a detail buried somewhere deep in the back pages of the contract that gave the other side the ability to do what they are doing.

In order to prevent this from happening, you know what you need to do. You need to make sure that you have plenty of time to sit down and carefully go over the entire draft contract from front to back before you sign it. Using a standardized checklist can help.

In fact, since you are not perfect, you really need to make sure that you get others to take a look at the draft contract. You know what they say about having many eyes look at something…

The most effective technique that I have used to get the devil out of the details of any agreement that you are going to be signing is also the most tiring. This is when you get a group of people together in a room and you all review the draft contract at the same time line-by-line.

As painful and time consuming as this type of review is, I’ve found it to be the most effective. The presence of so many people looking at the same document means that there is less chance that something is going to slip past you and come back to bite you later on.

What All Of This Means For You

When we are conducting a principled negotiation with the other side of the table, our guard is up – we’re watching to see what negotiating trick they might pull next. Once a deal has been reached, we tend to let our guard down – it’s all over now.

It turns out that we might be doing this too quickly. The ultimate deal that is reached is going to be documented in the paperwork that gets signed. If the other side tucks some items in there that can work against us, signing the deal could turn out to be a costly mistake. Take the time to read any deal very closely before you sign it!

Human nature being what it is, we like to gear up for a confrontation (negotiation) and then ramp back down once we think that the event is over. The clever negotiator realizes that it’s not over until it’s over and waits until the ink is dry on the signed deal before he or she lets their guard down.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How many different people do you think that you should have read the deal before you sign it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you enter into negotiations with somebody, the thought is that neither side is going to take action until the negotiations reach some sort of conclusion. We expect the other side to use all sorts of different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques during the discussions. However, sometimes either the other side or you do something before or during the negotiations that makes it a fait accompli – the deed is done. What is a negotiator to do now?