The Secret To Dealing With Deadlines: What Negotiators Need To Know

by drjim on April 8, 2011

Will You Know What To Do When Time Runs Out?

Will You Know What To Do When Time Runs Out?

Just how long do you think that your next sales negotiation is going to last? I’ve got news for you – it may not last as long as you may think that it’s going to last. The reason is that either side of the table may use deadlines to help hurry things along. If this happens, will you recognize that it’s happening and, more importantly, will you know what to do when it happens to you?

What’s The Big Deal With Deadlines?

Are we all clear here on just exactly what a deadline is? A deadline is a device that can be used by either side in a negotiation to move the discussion along. Basically it’s a way to get to the end of the discussions quicker.

Just because one side of the table presents the other side with a deadline does not mean that anything is going to change. Deadlines only work if the other side of the table believes that it’s real. Oh, and sometimes they aren’t – deadlines can be made up just to help the side that’s making it up.

As a negotiator you’ve got two skills that you need to develop. The first is that you’ve got to be able to realize when a deadline is being used to motivate you to agree to a deal quicker. The other skill that you are going to need is the ability to deal with deadlines when they are presented to you. The good news is that both of these skills can be learned.

How Buyers Use Deadlines

Buyers are generally willing to work with someone who is trying to sell them something for as long as they think that they are going to be able to get a good deal from them. The quicker that they can get to a deal, the faster they can move on to the next deal. Deadlines are a powerful tool for buyers to use to accomplish this.

Buyers can use a wide variety of methods to impose deadlines on the other side of the table. One such method is to say that funding for a purchase will be going away quickly and so a deal must be struck soon. Another is to say that an they will be making a purchase, but if a deal can’t be reached quickly then it will have to be made with another firm. Finally, stating that other parties will be involved in approving any deal and that they soon won’t be available for some period of time is another time-tested method for buyers to impose deadlines.

How Sellers Use Deadlines

The other side of the deadline coin has sellers on it who like to impose deadlines almost as much as buyers do. Sellers are often working with multiple buyers at different firms and so they need to determine if a deal is even possible as quickly as possible. Using a deadline can help to get to the end of a negotiation quickly and this will free up time to work with other parties on other deals.

Sellers also have a collection of classic deadline techniques that they like to use. These include stating that a price increase is coming soon and the current price may not be available for much longer. Tying the delivery date to the date that an agreement is struck is another way of establishing a deadline. Finally, stating that there is a limited supply of what is being negotiated for can provide the sense of urgency that comes with a deadline.

How You Can Defend Against Deadlines

Detecting that a deadline is being used against you is the first skill that you need to have as a sales negotiator. The next skill that you need to develop is the ability to defend against a deadline.

The first thing that you need to realize when you are presented with a deadline is that it may not be real. A deadline is just another negotiating tactic and you need to view it as being such. Do not allow a deadline to force you into rushing to make decisions that really require more time.

Instead, what you need to do is to be skeptical about any deadline that is presented to you. After having been presented with a deadline, your next step has to be to start to test it. Ask questions and dive deeper to find out what the implications of missing the deadline are and why they are tied to the deadline.

More often than not, you are going to discover that a deadline is not a fixed thing. Instead, a deadline just like everything else in a negotiation is up for debate and can be changed.

What All Of This Means For You

Deadlines are a powerful tool that can be used by either side in a negotiation. Instead of allowing the other side to believe that they have unlimited time to complete a negotiation, the use of a deadline causes the discussions to move more quickly with a sense of urgency.

Buyers use deadlines to move a deadline forward so that they can either reach a deal with a seller or move on and start negotiations with another seller. Sellers use deadlines in an attempt to close a deal quicker. No matter who is using a deadline, when you are presented with one you need to spend some time questioning if it is a real deadline.

Deadlines will always be a part of modern negotiations. Your responsibility as a skilled negotiator is to be able to recognize when a deadline is being used and to then know how best to deal with it.

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

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Question For You: At what point in a negotiation do you think that you should start to use a deadline?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever changed something about your appearance that made you look dramatically different? How did that go over with your family, friends, and coworkers? I’m willing to bet that right off the bat there was some shock when they first encountered your new look. However, over time that faded and things got back to normal. What happened is that they eventually came around to seeing you the way that you see yourself. When you are negotiating a deal, this same concept can be a powerful factor in helping you to wrap up a negotiation…

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