Are Deadlines Really Real?

Just because you are facing a deadline does not mean that it is real
Just because you are facing a deadline does not mean that it is real
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Every negotiation must come to an end sometime no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. However, just exactly when it needs to wrap up is where there may be some disagreement. In order to help a negotiation wrap up sooner rather then later, often times a deadline gets thrown into the mix. What’s a negotiator to do when all of sudden you have a deadline to deal with?

When Is A Deadline Not Real?

If a deadline was just a deadline, well then that would be it. However, it turns out that all too often a deadline is much less than it may seem to be. As a negotiator you need to recognize a deadline for what it really is: yet another negotiating tactic.

The reason that deadlines are so effective in a negotiation is because of how the other side will react to them. When we are presented with a deadline, we tend to start to believe that we have to make a decision by the time that the deadline arrives. If we are unable to do this, then we are going to be left with the feeling that we’ve failed.

What you need to learn to do is to determine just exactly how real a given deadline is. The reason that this is so important is because of the power of a deadline. If you believe that you have to meet a deadline, then you are going to find yourself operating at a disadvantage during the negotiations. This is going to be especially true if the other side knows that you are operating under a deadline.

A Classic Example Of Using Deadlines In A Negotiation

We can talk about the power of deadlines until we are blue in the face. Sometimes what it takes to make the power of a deadline clear is an example of someone using them during an actual negotiation.

Such an event occurred recently during the discussions in which Facebook negotiated to purchase the creator of the WhatsApp. Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, provided an interesting detail about how he steered WhatsApp into a $16 billion deal with Facebook:

‘We announced the deal with Facebook on Wednesday after the market closed. During the process, we realized there was a chance we might not be able to get the deal wrapped up and signed on Wednesday and it could delay.

When the risk of the delay became real, I said: “If we don’t get it done on Wednesday, it probably won’t get done. I have tickets on thursday to fly out to Barcelona which i bought with miles and they are not easily refundable or even possible to change. This has to be done by Wednesday or else!!!”

…and so one of the biggest deals in tech history had to be scheduled around my M&M award ticket.”

What All Of This Means For You

In almost every principled negotiation, a deadline eventually shows up. One or both sides state that the negotiations have to be wrapped up by a certain date or time otherwise a deal is not going to be able to be reached.

As negotiators we need to learn to look at deadlines with a skeptical eye. Yes, sometimes a deadline is real; however, more often than not they are simply a negotiating ploy. You need to take the time to determine how important a deadline is to the other side. Make sure that you never allow a deadline to put you at a disadvantage.

Deadlines are a fact of life and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to negotiations. As smart negotiators we need to make sure that we don’t allow deadlines to influence the type of deal that we are willing to agree to. It turns out that sometimes deadlines really are NOT real!

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

Question For You: What technique do you think that you could use to test to see if a deadline was a real deadline?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Face it, if you are willing to sit down and engage in a negotiation discussion with someone, then you are already committed to reaching a deal with them no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. Where things can start to get interesting is when you become too committed to reaching a deal. How to tell if this has happened and what to do about it are things that every negotiator needs to know.