Late-night TV is back! A few days ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger was on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. They discussed the latest Hollywood strikes that kept late-night TV dark for five months. Kimmel asked Schwarzenegger what he felt should’ve been done to resolve the strike sooner. Schwarzenegger pulled a page from his parenting handbook and suggested that they lock the studio executives and union leaders in a room and tell them that they can’t come out till a deal is done — no food, no bathrooms, nothing till a deal is done. In classic Schwarzenegger fashion, he added, “When a deal is done, I’ll be back!” Could that work?
In many negotiations, we take time for granted. Even when there’s a deadline to get a deal done, time can often be fungible. But what if it wasn’t? What if the urgency to get your negotiation done wasn’t based on a deadline but, instead, personal needs? I can only imagine how quickly a deal would get done when it’s standing in the way of your next bathroom break or meal.
Obviously, that’s an absurd example. Taking the human rights issues out of this, it got me thinking: What are some other creative ways to generate urgency in negotiation?
First, urgency is created when the other party prioritizes swift action. Therefore, it’s critical to figure out what the other side wants enough to get a deal done more quickly. You might research the answers to the questions below, or you might ask your counterparts directly:
- “How soon do you need the deal to be done?”
- “What happens if the deal isn’t done by then?”
- “What are the benefits or consequences of getting the deal done sooner?”
- “What happens if you’re not able to get a deal?”
- “What will this deal enable you to do?”
The point of this line of questioning is to uncover the importance of the deal and to identify some of the drivers to getting a deal done in a certain amount of time. From here, you can start to use those elements to your advantage throughout the negotiation process — either as an incentive to move faster or, potentially, as a consequence for not moving fast enough.
In the meantime, here are some potential thought-starters for what you can do based on what you learn from the other side:
Time-bound proposals. If your counterparts don’t have a time constraint, try making proposals that have an expiration date. However, once that date arrives, you must follow through. If you allow the deal to stand after the date slips, you’ll undermine your credibility.
Leverage opportunity costs. If the other side benefits from the deal getting done sooner, remind them about the costs or implications of not doing the deal. Be mindful not to overplay the opportunity costs, or you may find yourself in a position where they’re looking for alternatives.
Use social pressure. If the other party is concerned about public perception, you can appeal to the public for pressure. In most commercial negotiations, the “public” is more like internal stakeholders, management, or peers (rarely is it actually the public, but the principle is the same). Be aware that this tactic puts pressure on the relationship and could have a long-term impact.
Exclusive opportunities. If your negotiation partner values having something unique or in limited supply, position your deal accordingly and make sure they know how uncommon your deal with them is. However, make sure that it is unique — otherwise, it will lose its value.
These are just thought-starters regarding what you can do. The most effective approaches will be those grounded in what the other side values most. Tailoring your technique to what’s most important to the other side will create a win-win that strengthens the relationship . . . so they’ll be back.
We Can Help You Get Time on Your Side.
When you need your deal done faster than they do, you’ll need to trade to get them up to speed. We can help! Draw on Scotwork’s nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience to get the other side in gear.