Demands & Deadlines: Your Two Best Friends

Out Of Time To Negotiate
Out Of Time To Negotiate

All too often when we are negotiating both in real life and in business, demands and deadlines show up. Since most of us have never been trained on how to deal with these issues, we tend to do the easiest thing: panic. May I suggest a different approach: ignore them.

Unless you are actively involved in a hostage negotiation, you probably won’t be handed a list of demands. Instead, they will show up in more subtle ways. Casual statements like “This is a must have” or “I really don’t have any flexibility on this issue” are the nice way of saying “this is a demand” in polite company. Instead of panicking, great each veiled demand as an old friend. The other side has just revealed a point that is important to them. The actual demand does not matter that much, what really matters is the reason for the demand. If they say they they need the delivery by Friday, then forget the demand and focus on why they need the delivery by then. Who is waiting for the delivery? Why do they need it then? Every demand is a step in the right direction because you now have a better idea about what key points the eventual solution must address.

Same thing goes for deadlines. If the other side says “we’ve got to wrap this up by 10 pm or we’ll have to walk” then the question is why? What is their best alternative? What is so special about 10 pm? Why not continue tomorrow? Remember that most deadlines are garbage and the other side may be using them as part of a fairly poor attempt at moving the deal to a close. Ignore the deadline and move on. If they are interested in doing a deal, they’ll end up ignoring it also.

If you end up giving into one or more of their demands or meeting one of their deadlines, make sure that you get something for it. Tit-for-tat. Make sure that the other side does not see you as being weak and giving in. Instead, keep the give and take balanced through the negotiations.