This is a repeat of my June 2009 tip but, sadly, just as meaningful today as it was last year. Everyone is still on edge about the economy, making negotiations tougher and more highly competitive. This often ends in stalemates and sometimes broken deals and relationships. Here are some tips for getting negotiations back on track during highly sensitive economic times.
1. Deliver minor concessions early: Making concessions early in the negotiation can help you get the negotiation off on the right foot. Focus on giving your counterpart a few low-cost "gifts" that he or she finds valuable and you will help build a higher level of trust and cooperation. The level of competition will thereby be reduced, increasing the chance of success without giving up anything of great value.
2. Clearly label all major/significant concessions: Say something like "This is going to cost us a lot, but I am willing to give this to you because …." This will cause the other side to feel a greater responsibility to reciprocate.
3. Use Time Wisely: Time can be your worst enemy. In bad economic times, people want to get the deal done and lock it in. On the other hand, if you put too much time pressure on your counterpart, he/she might feel as if they have made a bad deal even when it is beneficial for them to go through with it. Although it may be counter-intuitive, it is wiser to give your counterpart enough time to fully assess choices when making important decisions.
4. Match your behavior to the outcome you desire: One year later we cannot forget the big 3 automakers who came to Washington, D.C. in their private corporate jets with their hands out for money because they were "broke". Of course, a better practice would have been …well you know what they did next, after they were totally humiliated.
5. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Need I say more.
*Negotiation, Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, Vol. 12, Num. 3 / March 2009.