Sales Negotiators Need To Know When Done Is Done

by drjim on March 15, 2013

A negotiation is not over until it is done

A negotiation is not over until it is done
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Thank goodness, you’ve finally reached an agreement with the other side of the table. That means that the negotiations are now done and both sides can put their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques away. Well, maybe not quite. If you haven’t nailed down just exactly what “done” means, then you’re not done yet.

The Problem With Not Quite Being Done

I can almost hear you asking “how can a negotiation not be over and done with if we’ve just reached agreement on the last point being discussed”. The answer is that as with all principled negotiations, the devil turns out to be in the details of that deal that both sides have just reached.

A key part of any deal that has been reached is the agreement by both sides to perform some action based on the deal (and how they will be paid to do it). Let’s take a look at just exactly how these types of details could trip you up.

On any deal that has been negotiated, there will some action that needs to be performed. An important detail that might be left out of the negotiations is just exactly when the work will start. For that matter, warrantees for the work that will be performed are often supplied. A key question is when does the warrantee period start: when that part of the project has been completed or when the entire project is turned over to you?

The purpose of the negotiation was to have something done. Once that thing is done, one or both parties hope to be able to do something because of the deal being completed. Just exactly what is this “thing”? Is the ability to do this the real measure of the deal being “done”?

When what was being negotiated is a tangible thing, it is easier to determine what “done” means than if the object of the negotiations is a service. The problem with services is that you may run into problems with measuring things such as time related to the service to be performed: when does something start, when does something end, how long during a day should the service be performed?

It’s All About Measurements

One of the reasons that you may have difficulty closing your next negotiation is because both sides of the table may not be able to agree on how best to measure what “done” means. One of the reasons that this problem exists is because there are no agreed to measurement standards that both sides can use as a reference for this type of agreement.

Instead, you are going to have to create your own measurement standards and get the other side of the table to agree to use them to confirm that the work that was agreed to is actually indeed done. Once again, the devil will be in the details.

Any sort of measuring standard is going to have to take a number of factors into account. These may include such issues as when the work will be done (weekends, holidays, vacation days?) Who will keep the records of who worked and how long they worked for. What type of reporting will be performed, how often, and by who? As you can see, even when you’ve reached agreement on the last issue, there may still be a great deal of work to do in order to make sure that done is really done.

What Does All Of This Mean For You

We all know the feeling of relief that sweeps over us when we feel as though we have reached the end of a long, hard negotiation. However, it turns out that all too often, a negotiation is not over until it is over.

What this means is that it’s the little details that can cause a deal that everyone thought that they had agreed to come undone. Things such as when the work starts and when it ends can be a major source of conflict. To top this off, if you don’t include agreement on how to measure what “done” means, then you are setting yourself up for a big problem later on.

As part of your next negotiation, before you wrap things up, you are going have to do just a little bit more. You are going to have to come to agreement with the other side about just exactly what “done” really means to both of you.

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

Question For You: Do you think that you should ever go to a 3rd party to get input on how best to measure what “done” really means?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Do you remember that scene early on in the movie Star Wars when Ben Kenobi tells the Imperial Troopers that “…these are not the droids that you are looking for…” and then they walk away? It is exactly that kind of mind control that negotiators wish that they had when it comes time to wrap up a negotiation. Since the Force is not something that most of us know how to control, what’s the best way to make the other side of the table want to close the negotiations?

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