How Negotiators Can Deal With Last Minute Demands

A negotiation is never over, until it's over
A negotiation is never over, until it’s over
Image Credit: Hernán Piñera

Negotiators always have to deal with the simple fact that a negotiation is never over, until it’s over. What this means is that it is possible that after months of negotiation and the use of a wide variety of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, you reach a detailed agreement with the other side and shake hands. You are all done, right? Well, maybe not. A week later, the other side’s procurement officer calls to tell you that there have to be some “revisions” to the deal. Perhaps they expect you to deliver the same service package faster than agreed upon and for less money. This happens after you’ve lined up resources internally and gotten commitments from your own vendors. In a situation like this, you end up trying to make the new deal work, since you can’t afford to lose these key customers. What can a negotiator do when this issue pops up?

The Problem With Last Minute Demands

Guess what — by caving in to last-minute demands, you’ve inadvertently taught your customers to ask for a final concession. As negotiators, we understand that the other side might be playing the old “salami game.” This happens when they put an attractive proposal on the table, then taking back a series of thin slices, none of which seems important enough to blow up the deal. In the end, however, you’re not left with much.

There is always the possibility that the other side may simply be suffering from poor coordination and decision making. As an example, one of their team members may have been out of the loop when you and your counterpart scoped the original timeline. When we encounter situations where the other side decides that they want to make changes to the agreement that we all agreed to, we need to know how we can manage the problem.

Dealing With Last Minute Demands

The one thing that you don’t want to do as a negotiator is to just cave in to the other side’s request to make changes to the deal that you’ve both agreed to. Instead, before negotiating, confirm the other side’s authority. If someone on their team can’t sign off on a deal, then you, too, should be tentative about what you put on the table. You need to be clear about this. You defiantly don’t want to make firm offers in exchange for vague proposals.

It is your responsibility as a negotiator to make sure that when you shake on a deal that you are explicit about its terms. If the other side says something vague, such as, “I’m optimistic that I can sell this to my people,” you should not be afraid to push hard for clarification. You need to understand that it is better to get the bad news now than to announce the deal to your colleagues, only to backtrack later.

A request to renegotiate a deal should never be taken lightly. If the other side comes back with proposed revisions, treat them seriously. If they have real problems then they may need to be addressed. You need to let them know that any new burden should be shared fairly between your two companies. You can make changes to the agreement — if budget is their issue, maybe your service package should be trimmed. Likewise, if time is of the essence, then you should add a premium for your extra costs.

This type of quid for every quo should be used to teach the salami slicers that they can’t get something for nothing. Reacting this way also legitimates your negotiating behavior, showing that you didn’t pull your original price out of thin air.

Every customer that you negotiate with is different. With the important long-term customers, make time to review with them the state of your union at regular intervals. What can you stand to learn from the prior year? How can you go about improving communication? What’s a better way of creating these contracts? When you discuss process without the pressures of a specific deal, your companies should be able to work together with greater efficiency and creativity.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators, when we reach an agreement during a principled negotiation with the other side that both can live with, we’d like to be able to consider the negotiations to be over and done with. However, there will be times that after the agreement has been finalized, the other side will come back to us and start to ask to make changes to the agreement. When this happens, you need to be ready to deal with it.

When the other side starts to make requests to change an agreement that they previously agreed to, you need to be aware that they may be trying to play the old “salami game” with you. When they do this, they are trying to make significant changes to the agreement in small increments. When you reach an agreement with the other side, you have to be very clear what you believe is covered by the agreement. There is always the possibility that the other side is just poorly organized and they didn’t know what they were agreeing to. You want to match the other side and if they are being vague, you don’t want to be definite. You need to let the other side know that any new burdens will have to be jointly shared by both parties. Make sure that you work out how communication should happen between both parties in order to prevent things like this from happening in the future.

We need to understand that there is always the possibility that when we believe that a negotiation is over and done with, that might not be the case. If the other side approaches us with a request to make changes to an agreement, we need to be willing to hear them out. However, we need to be aware that there is the possibility that they are trying to play us in order to get more out of the deal than was promised. Keep your eyes open and approach any request to change an existing agreement carefully!

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

Question For You: Do you think that there is ever a situation where you should not permit an agreement to be changed?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators we all realize that in order to be successful in our next negotiation, we need to make sure that we show up with the appropriate set of skills, negotiation styles and negotiating techniques. However, negotiators who are looking for effective negotiation strategies often confront a dizzying array of advice. When we find ourselves in a situation like this it can be useful to take a step back and categorize these strategies into various types of negotiation tactics. If we take the time to highlight the benefits of negotiation in business, the following five types of negotiation tactics can help you think more broadly about how to get a great deal in your next negotiation.