Negotiating A DeadlineWe often find ourselves negotiating against deadlines – often imposed by the other side. This can be very stressful and makes us vulnerable to making unwanted concessions, just to get the deal done.

“If the deal’s not done by Tuesday, there’s no deal”, would be a typical demand from the other side.

“Ouch! That pressure is doing my head in” would be a typical internal response.

There are two possible scenarios here;

  1. The first is that the deadline is just a tactic from the other side. Tough guys often use deadlines tactically to heap pressure on their opponents. The answer in this case is to test the deadline. If it is not real they will back off. You can ask them something like; “So are you saying that if the deal is done on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, and we all get more out of it then you don’t want to do the deal?” If the deadline is real then the only possible answer this question is “Yes”. However, more often than not, you will get a conditional response e.g. “I’m not exactly saying that, we just need to get the deal done quickly”. If you get that kind of answer then you know that the deadline is not real. You also know that it is probably worth ignoring any other pressure tactics applied by this person, as they don’t really mean it.
  2. But what if the deadline IS real – for either the other side or you? One option here is to share the negotiating problem and its solution – brainstorm the answer together. You can say something like “look, we are all in this together, we both need a satisfactory outcome and there is a deadline looming for both of us. I see both of us needing more reassurance from the deal. Shall we try to resolve that common problem together?” Now you can put aside the negotiation for a moment, have everybody in the room together (preferably a different venue than normal), and try to create some options for moving forward. The only rules are that no idea is too stupid to consider and that people cannot have ideas which they suggest used against them afterwards. This creates a safe environment for experimenting with solutions.

This process works well for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gets everybody on the same side of the issue. Secondly, it tends to create a number of options for progress quickly – ideal if there is a deadline at hand. Thirdly, it makes the deal more likely to be honoured since both parties had a stake in creating the solution.

So, sharing the problem and its solution is a great way of dealing with genuine deadlines.