When you’re working to get a deal done as a buyer or a seller and you’re hitting walls, consider five tips from Harvard University.
The Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, which offers seminars and publishes information, recently published the suggestions in an excellent article, which is a long one, but we have the handy highlights with ideas for all phases of the process.
It’s worth stepping back for a moment and getting a clearer sense of what’s going on, if part of the problem is psychological.
Step 1: diagnose the barrier.
People often enough take a dismissive view of what they’re offered, think, “If that were truly important to them. They wouldn’t have made the concession,” the report points out.
“We need to avoid that trap in our own thinking and be careful not to trigger that reaction from others. Rather than trying to wrap things up by putting a reasonable number on the table, for instance, wait for the other side to make a specific request. In this manner, you may increase the perceived value of your concession – and your counterpart’s satisfaction.”
Deadline pressure makes the world go around, which takes us to Tip 2: use the clock
“Negotiations expand to fill the time available. We may not like to make important decisions under the gun, but deadlines can provide a healthy incentive to come to agreement.”
When contracts are due to expire, people are “jolted out of the relative comfort of the status quo,” according to the Program, which draws teachers and students from fields including, business, law, psychology and economics.
“If you anticipate these moments, recognize your priorities, and keep channels of communication clear, you’ll be able to move quickly and wisely when you have to.”
So the deal’s done. Or is it? Tip 3: count your change.
Obvious as it may sound, check everything and be ready for frustrations.
“Confirm that all the key provisions have been covered so there will be no surprises. Even after you’ve gotten a sincere handshake, your counterpart may come back with further demands if she is having a tough time selling the deal internally. (You’ll sometimes be in that position yourself.)”
Indeed, you can’t know for sure if someone is being questionable or if there’s a genuine need for revisions, but “How the negotiation has gone up until that point may offer an important clue,” the article says.
And don’t forget that if someone creates new terms, you get something in return. If you don’t, you’ll motivate the other side to keep asking for more.
Okay, the deal is almost done.
Now it’s time to sign – and Tip 4: pay attention to details.
“Whatever you’ve gained through artful negotiation will go down the drain if the understanding you reached is poorly reflected in formal documents,” the article reminds us.
“The technical side of executing an agreement isn’t glamorous, but it’s where many battles are won or lost. Even if you’re weary, resist the temptation to let the other side write it all up.”
When it’s virtually done, Tip 5: think about letting the other side look good.
“To get a deal ratified, you may have to make your counterpart look good to his constituents,” the report says.
What may seem like subtle differences in how things are done can actually make real differences, according to Harvard’s Program on Negotiation.
Using the example of labor negotiations, the article pointed out that it can make a difference if a union’s offer is approved; its leaders can say, ‘We got the company to accept our proposal,’ rather than, Here’s what we finally accepted.’”