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Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation: Time Management by jigordon
November 27, 2007, 9:32 am
Filed under: Five Fundamental Skills, negotiation

Any negotiation starts before you actually sit down with the other side. The Information Gathering and Strategic Thinking skills are obviously necessary prior to talking with your opponent. The third skill, Time Management, is an extension of this concept. You need to understand this key constraint and plan for the effects it will have on your negotiation.

Time affects us all. Luckily, at a base level, it’s 100% equal. One second for you is the same as one second for your opponent. Thus the important factor in Time Management is knowing the specific things that create constraints for you and those that create constraints for your opponent. Part of these should have been revealed in the Information Gathering skill (remember I said that you’d bounce a bit between the skills once you got started). So, the discovery phase of Time Management should have already been completed. We’re concerned now with the effective use of time.

Let’s start with one side’s time constraint – a business owner that wants to close the deal and install a product by a given deadline. You also, unless you’re really lucky, have more than one deal on the table at this moment – so there are many deadlines all tugging at you. Thus, prioritization is very important. Learn to separate the urgent things (those which appear to need speed) from the important things (those which are actually vital). I can’t tell you how to segment them in your own brain – but it starts with asking what will happen if some specific thing does not get done by its deadline. In other words, what’s the impact of ignoring time?

Your opponent, in this case a salesperson, also has time constraints – deadlines by which they must close their deals to meet their pipeline goals. [If you’re not familiar with sales terms such as “pipeline,” I would suggest reading through a basic sales how-to manual. It will help you understand their perspective a lot more clearly.] They too, have urgent and important things on their plate.

Unfortunately, that’s usually where the perfect symmetry ends, as your specific constraints won’t always mesh with your opponents constraints… nor will the list of urgent versus important items. Figuring out what’s really important to both sides can thus play into a timely deal closing, for if you know when both parties really need the deal to close, you can work together to accomplish the goal.

A disparity happens when one side needs the deal to close before the other. This becomes a pressure point, one that can increase the leverage for the non-constrained party. But unless you discover this issue, chances are that you will continue to believe that you’re both operating on the same time table – yours.

On the flip side, what if you’re the constrained party and you are rightfully concerned about leverage? You can do one of two things about something that is problematic and visible to others. You can either fix the issue (get rid of the constraint), or you can address it head-on and make it a non-issue by telling the other side that yes, it is a constraint, but that failure to create a solution by the deadline will affect both parties (ie: if we miss the deadline, the price goes up).

Oh wait! You’ve seen this? Of course. The end-of-quarter or end-of-year firesales held by many vendors in an effort to drive deals to closure to pump up sales figures. Did it work to close the deal by the deadline?

Regardless, you experienced (or managed) a time constraint first-hand. Using the next fundamental skill, Perception of Power, you will see how to shift the balance of power in response to these identified issues.

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