Death To Deadlines! (Ours Not Theirs)

Deadlines make negotiations move along
Deadlines make negotiations move along

It is one of life’s great truths: deadlines make things happen in negotiations. I’m speaking only for myself, but I suspect that many others would agree that if I can, I’ll wait as long as possible before I finally get around to making a decision. Case in point: I’ve got a high school reunion notice sitting on my desk and I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to attend. I’ve got one more week to make up my mind and I’ll probably only make my decision on the very last day!

The good thing, sorta, about deadlines is that they create pressure to close. Trust me on this, if it were not for deadlines negotiations could end up taking longer than they already do. The problem with deadlines is that when we are negotiating we tend to be more aware of our time limits rather than those on the other party. Everybody has time limits and we need to be more aware of that. If we focus on just our limits, then this will lead us to under use the strengths that we have and to, unfortunately, overestimate the strength of the other side of the table. Before entering a negotiation, we need to get answers to three deadline related questions:

  • What Deadlines Are On The Other Party? This is the ultimate question to get an answer to. If you are negotiating to buy a car, the time that the dealership closes will definitely be a deadline for the other party. Get creative and crawl inside the other party’s skin and spend some time thinking like they do in order to create a list of their possible deadlines.
  • What Deadlines Has Your Organization Put On You? This is almost as important as the first question. You need to know what kind of limitations you are dealing with. If you have more time to negotiate then the other side, then great. If not, then you are already in a bind even before the negotiations start.
  • Is It Possible To Renegotiate The Deadlines That Have Been Put On You? Although not always realized, this is a critical point. Just because you have a deadline, does not mean that you have to live with it. Often times internal deadlines have been created somewhat arbitrarily and can be easily changed. If you can move your deadlines out beyond the other sides deadlines, then you will be in an excellent position even before the negotiations start.

So the key here is to realize that everything in life (including life itself) has a deadline associated with it. As long as you do your research and at least guess at what the other side’s deadlines are, then you’ll be in good shape to negotiate from a position of strength.

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