The Power Of Time In A Sales Negotiation

by drjim on September 22, 2009

If You Control Time, Then You Control The Negotiation

If You Control Time, Then You Control The Negotiation

When I work with clients to improve their negotiating skills, one of the first things that we do is to sit down and review their past experiences with negotiating situations. This generally produces a list of both good and bad experiences. The reason that I take the time to do this is because it shows me where things have gone wrong in the past and where my customers need to spend the most time developing their negotiating skills.

Time after time the same weakness shows up in my clients. No matter how confident they may feel about a negotiation or how much research they’ve done going in, the issue of available time seems to trip them up over and over again.

How The Japanese Used Time To Their Advantage

In the early 1980’s U.S. businesses “rediscovered” Japan and almost every business wanted to strike a deal with a Japanese business in order to get access to high quality, low cost goods. What this meant is that a lot of U.S. business men (and women) got on planes and flew over to Japan to do some sales negotiating.

It quickly became apparent that the Japanese were excellent negotiators. The Americans were coming home with signed business deals that were ok, but nothing close to what they had originally been hoping for.

It turns out that the Japanese were not only good negotiators, but they also knew how to read an airline’s flight schedule. The Japanese would find out when the Americans were scheduled to fly home and they would stall during the negotiations until it got close to the time for the Americans to leave for the airport.

The Americans would be desperate to close a deal and would end up giving too much away just to be able to make their flight. After this had been going on for awhile, one American took the time to step back and study how negotiations were going with the Japanese. He quickly discovered what they were doing and how they were doing it.

The next time that he was scheduled to negotiate in Japan with the Japanese, he found out when the Japanese that he would be negotiating with were scheduled to take the train home. He went ahead and made two flight reservations – one before their train left, and one afterwards. Once the negotiations started, he stalled and the Japanese couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting worried about missing his flight. After he had missed the window to leave the negotiations for his flight, he started to get serious about negotiating. Now it was time for the Japanese to start to get nervous , they were worried about missing their train back to Tokyo. In the end, they ended up making too many concessions.

Seven Ideas To Build Your Time Power

One of the fundamental lessons that I include in all of my training sessions with my clients is that time is a crucial element when it comes to bargaining power. What it all comes down to is one simple rule: the more time that I have, and the less time that you have, then the more negotiating power I will have.

Now of course, the key to making sure that you have more time during a negotiation is to take action to ensure that you have the time that you need. Here are seven ways that you can ensure that you’ll have the time that you need:

  • Leave time to shop around , You may be negotiating with the wrong people sitting on the other side of the table. You may decide to go searching for someone else to do a deal with. If this happens, it’s going to take some time and so you’re going to need to have enough time to do that search.
  • Be on time for the meeting , This seems like a silly thing to say, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t do it. If you show up for a negotiation late, then you are going to be running behind during the entire discussion. Being there on time will help you get started in a relaxed way.
  • Give yourself time to think , Don’t let the other side push you into making a decision that might be the wrong decision for you. Instead, call for periodic breaks and give yourself some thinking time in order to reassess where things stand and what your next steps should be.
  • Avoid marathon talks , Death marches will only end up killing you. No matter how “cool” it might be to tell your boss that you were in negotiations for 8, 10, 12 hours straight the sad reality is that your performance drops off over time. The one exception to this rule is that if you are pleased with where things currently stand and you’d like to push on to the end in order to wrap things up.
  • Pick the best time to negotiate , They always say that there is a time for everything and negotiating is no exception to this rule. Are you a morning person or an evening person? Know your preference and schedule your negotiating sessions accordingly.
  • Leave time for things to go wrong , This one is huge. Things will never go according to your plan. You need to anticipate that things that you could never have counted on will happen, points that you though both sides agreed to before discussions stared will turn out to be significant issues, etc. Leave time to work all of these things out.
  • Leave enough time to plan , So often my clients will think that planning is something that you only do before you start a negotiation. It turns out that you do do it before, but you also do it during the negotiation in order to adjust to events that unfold during the negotiation.
  • Leave enough time to negotiate with your second choice — If things don’t go the way that you want them to with the other side of the table, make sure that you’ll still have enough time to negotiate with another partner. There is no worse feeling than knowing that you have to stick with a bad negotiation because you don’t have any other alternatives.

Final Thoughts

All too often time starts to cause you to make hurried decisions because you have a real or an imagined deadline looming. When that happens, stop, take a deep breath and then ask yourself the following three questions in order to find ways to relieve the pressure of that deadline:

  1. What self-imposed or organization-imposed deadlines am I under?
  2. Are the deadlines that I’m under real?
  3. What deadlines are putting pressure on the other side?

One of the most important points to remember about time and deadlines in a negotiation is that you may not the only one under pressure, the other side may be under greater pressure than you.

If you can learn to make time work for you during your next negotiation, then you will be able to close better deals and close them quicker.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What is the secret for walking away from your next sales negotiation feeling satisfied? We all wish that there was some magic “silver bullet” technique that if we knew what it was we could use it every time we negotiate in order to be able to walk away feeling like our negotiating time was well spent. It turns out that there is such a technique, and it’s called doing your homework.

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