1: It was negotiation expert Herb Cohen’s first big business deal, Chris Voss, writes in his book Never Split the Difference.

Herb was sent to Japan by his company to negotiate with a supplier. 

“When he arrived, his counterparts asked him how long he was staying,” Chris notes. 

Herb told them one week.

“For the next seven days, his hosts proceeded to entertain him with parties, tours, and outings—everything but negotiation,” Chris writes. 

When did serious talks start?  Right before Herb was getting ready to fly home.  “The two sides hammered out the deals fine details in the car to the airport,” Chris notes.

Herb returned home to the U.S. “with the sinking feeling that he’d been played, and that he had conceded too much under deadline pressure,” Chris relays. 

2: The lesson Herb took from this experience? 

He should not have told the supplier about his deadline.

Which is absolutely incorrect, Chris believes.

“Allow me to let you in on a little secret,” he writes.  Herb “and the herd of negotiation ‘experts’ who follow his lead are wrong. 

“Deadlines cut both ways.  [Herb] may well have been nervous about what his boss would say if he left Japan without an agreement. 

“But it’s also true that his counterparts wouldn’t have won if he’d left without a deal. 

“That’s the key: When the negotiation is over for one side, it’s over for the other too,” Chris writes.

University of California, Berkeley Professor Don Moore’s research shows that when negotiators tell the other party about their deadline, they get better deals. 

If we have a deadline and don’t tell the other side, we are pushed to “speed up our concessions,” Chris writes, “but the other side, thinking that it has time, will just hold out for more.” 

When the other side knows our deadline, it speeds up the overall process, and concessions come more quickly from both sides.

3: “Time is one of the most crucial variables in any negotiation,” Chris writes.  “The simple passing of time and its sharper cousin, the deadline, are the screw that pressures every deal to a conclusion.” 

As wise negotiators, we must understand the role time plays.

“Deadlines regularly make people say and do impulsive things that are against their best interests,” he notes, “because we all have a natural tendency to rush as a deadline approaches.”

Beware the false deadline.

Otherwise, we allow ourselves to be taken hostage, “creating an environment of reactive behaviors and poor choices, where our counterpart can now kick back and let an imaginary deadline, and our reaction to it, do all the work for him.”

The key takeaway?

“Deadlines are almost never ironclad,” Chris observes.  They are “often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.”

One of Chris’s negotiation rules is: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” 

“If that mantra can truly be internalized,” he writes, and we begin to believe we “have all the time we need to conduct the negotiation right, our patience becomes a formidable weapon.”

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Consider a recent negotiation.  What role did time and deadline play?

Action: Discuss with my team or with a colleague. 

What did you think of this post?

Write A Comment