Time and information are two critical elements in any negotiation. To get these elements on your side, you must realize one very important fact: the negotiation process begins long before you ever meet with the other party.
Most people think negotiation starts and ends when the two parties actually meet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A woman once asked for my advice on what strategy to use when requesting a raise during her annual review with her boss. All the options she had considered dealt with the review session itself. She had not considered the preplanning and information gathering she needed to do to create a powerful negotiation. She had not taken into account such things as: documenting her accomplishments over the previous year; figuring out what her boss’s needs and goals were, and how she could help him achieve those goals; finding out what types of raises her boss had given in the past and in what amounts; nor developing a clear vision of her own goals for the negotiation. The fact is, the negotiation actually began the day this woman started working for the company–and will continue until her next employment opportunity. Most negotiations, like life, are a continuous process. How you spend the time before you meet with the other party is extremely important.
Of course, the time spent in the interactive negotiating process also plays a critical role. Most often, negotiations will conclude in the final 20 percent of the time allowed. This aspect of negotiation follows an interesting rule that seems to apply to life in general. It’s called the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle (after Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian economist and sociologist who defined it). It states: “20 percent of what you do produces 80 percent of the results; conversely, 80 percent of what you do produces only 20 percent of the results.”
In negotiation, this can be translated to: “80 percent of your results are generally agreed upon in the last 20 percent of your time.” Time and deadlines can favor either side, depending on the circumstances. Here are a few suggestions that will help you bring time to your side of the negotiations.
Have patience. Because most concessions and settlements occur in the last 20 percent of the available time, remain levelheaded and wait for the right moment to act. As a general rule, patience pays.
If there are benefits to resolving the negotiation quickly, sell the other party on the value a quick settlement will have for him. There will be times when one or both parties will benefit if negotiations are resolved quickly.
Realize deadlines can be moved, changed or eliminated. As your deadline approaches, do not panic. Simply change the deadline.
Try to find out the other party’s deadline. In most negotiations, you are better off if you know your counterpoint’s deadline. As you near his deadline, his stress level will increase and he will most likely make concessions.
Take your time. Generally, you will not achieve the best outcome quickly. Although there are exceptions to this rule, you are usually better off negotiating slowly and with perseverance.
Information is another key issue in negotiation. Most often, the side with the most information will receive the better outcome. Unfortunately, since most people tend to perceive the negotiation as the time the two parties spend actually discussing terms, they fail to get adequate information before meeting.
A negotiation is not an event, it is a process. It starts long before the face-to-face encounter. One reason you have to start preparing much earlier is that during the actual negotiation, it is likely that your counterpart will conceal her true interests, needs and motivations. Your chance of getting this information during the negotiation is relatively remote.
The earlier you start, the easier it is to obtain information. People are more willing to give out information prior to beginning any formal interaction. For example, before buying your next car, go to several dealerships asking questions about the models you are interested in, the financing plans available, and how willing different salespeople are to deal. When you actually began negotiating to buy a particular car, all this background information can be used to your advantage.
Where do you get information? From anyone who has knowledge that will help you in your negotiation. You can find useful material by researching facts and statistics; going on the Internet; talking to someone who has negotiated with the other party in the past; talking directly to the other party; or speaking with friends, relatives and others who’ve been in similar negotiations. Take the example of buying a house. By speaking to your real estate agent and doing some research on your own, you can easily find out what other houses in the area have sold for and whether the seller has any reason for wanting to sell quickly (like a job transfer). By talking with other friends who have bought houses, you can discover areas that are often negotiable and that may affect the seller’s willingness to come down in price, like the closing date, or flexibility in demanding repairs.
Put time and information on your side with advanced preparation. Use the time before you meet to gather information about the other party’s needs, what he or she considers negotiable, and his or her likely negotiating strategies. Based on this information, you can plan your own strategies for success.
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