This past week, I gave an address at a client’s annual sales kickoff meeting. My message for the team was simple: protect your value. We had great discussions around the topic, but one theme kept coming up: speed. For them, everything is moving quickly. Their plates are full, expectations are high, and they’re finding it harder to keep up with it all. They wanted to know how to be more efficient so they can get through their negotiations faster while protecting their value.
“I don’t have enough time.” It’s the most common obstacle I run into. It’s used to explain everything from why people can’t prepare to why they can’t get better deals. The reality is, insufficient time doesn’t have to be as much of an obstacle as people think. But you have to make it less of an obstacle, and that requires some work. People must have discipline in their negotiations.
Here are 5 tips for how to find time in your negotiations and make them more efficient.
Preparation saves time. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I don’t have time to prepare.” The irony is that if you don’t have time to prepare, then you better have time to waste. Because that’s exactly what will happen in a negotiation if you don’t prepare — you’ll waste time. Proper preparation helps you walk into a negotiation with a purpose and a plan. “Winging it,” as some will attempt to do, becomes an exercise in guessing. Even though a blind squirrel will find an acorn every once in a while, there’s no need to fly blind during a negotiation. In my experience, every minute of preparation will save you 10 minutes during a negotiation.
Get bad news out early. Bad news can come in many different forms, but most of the time, it revolves around something the other side wants that you know you can’t do. Would you rather spend a lot of time negotiating a deal only to have it unravel at the end because that thing you can’t do is a dealbreaker for the other side? Of course not! Get it out as early as you can. You might as well know up front if a deal is even possible. Our suggestion: Tell the other side what you can’t do, but signal where you can be flexible so they know you’re still willing to work a deal. And if they still want to negotiate, then great. If they don’t, then great too! Sometimes a door closed is as valuable as a door opened.
Be genuinely interested in the other side. Dale Cargenie, author of How to Win Friends & Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” You can apply the same philosophy to a negotiation. Spend more time asking questions and taking an interest in the other side. Learn what motivates them, how this deal will help them, what they value, what success (and failure) looks like to them, etc. The more interest you take in the other side, the more information you can discover about them; this will help you formulate proposals to get deals done (and it’s a lot better than guessing).
Recap and summarize regularly. Regular recaps and summaries will help ensure that a negotiation’s salient points are kept on the table and in play. Oftentimes, we run from one conversation to the next, forgetting about what we’ve discussed or agreed upon — and those details get lost. Then you have to spend time reworking something you’ve already hashed out. You can avoid wasting that time simply by spending a fraction of it doing regular summaries. You should summarize before the end of every meeting as well. Plus, I highly recommend you circulate that summary; doing so will help you avoid more wasted time spent unwinding a revisionist take on the conversation.
Tell people what you want (just not how badly you want it). You will not get 100% of the things you don’t ask for. In negotiations, people frequently hold their cards so close to their chest that each side is forced to guess what the other side wants. Not only does this lead to disappointment, but it also sucks up a lot of time. It’s like playing the game Battleship, where you’re just guessing what the other side wants. It’s OK to tell people what you want — just don’t tell them how badly you want it. Why make them guess?
If you’re feeling the time crunch and want to be more efficient, be disciplined and apply these tips to your negotiations. In the long run, you’ll save far more time than you invested.
We Can Help You Make Your Negotiators More Efficient.
Does your team complain that they don’t have enough time in their negotiations? As time crunches and expectations continue to grow, it’s critical that they be more efficient, getting through their negotiations faster while protecting their value. We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.