“I believe in short-term wins and long-term relationships,” a successful executive told me during a recent negotiation in which we had two paths open to us: focusing on a longer-term deal with many complex moving parts, or proceeding with a smaller deal with a limited number of pretty straightforward issues.
We picked the latter, to start. Why?
• Long-term relationships must be built in baby steps.
Trusting, credible, long-term business relationships and partnerships don’t generally occur overnight. In fact, they usually take time, effort and constant attention to the needs and interests of the parties.
As tempting as it may be to fast-forward to try to close that big deal, be careful your haste and impatience don’t destroy your possibility of any deal.
Instead, explore and find areas of agreement and common interests and agree on them to start. By taking baby steps to build your relationships and following through on your commitments, you will be well-positioned to take advantage of later opportunities.
This is especially true in negotiating with large entities, because most want to prove out any value proposition before making a major commitment.
• Understand the power of momentum.
“I know a future relationship is important here, but let’s deal with this major issue right away. Bottom line: We can’t agree to anything at the end of the day without resolving this. And I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”
Whoa. Wait a second. While this might seem a more efficient way to proceed, it may actually decrease the likelihood you’ll get any deal and may end up costing you more time. Why?
It ignores the power of positive momentum. If you “cut to the chase” on big issues before you have established a good working relationship and sufficient positive momentum in the negotiation, the parties may not be able to overcome the challenges that often arise when dealing with the tougher issues.
Alternatively, the longer the time and the greater the effort you put into deals, assuming some progress is made, the more psychologically committed both sides get to achieving any deal and the more likely the parties will work harder to resolve those tougher issues.
Of course, sometimes short deadlines out of our control force us to address major issues earlier rather than later. And in those cases, you may not have the option to build up that head of steam. But if you have the option – and a long-term relationship is on the table – take the time to generate momentum.
• Value of patience and long-term goals.
I’m not naturally a patient person. And I don’t shy away from complex long-term deals and opportunities. But sometimes I’ve had to take a step back and accept a short-term win, anticipating it will pay off in the end.
When you do, however, structure your short-term win to increase the likelihood you’ll achieve your ultimate goals. Bottom line in all your deals: Keep your eye on your long-term objectives.
Published June 3, 2010 The Arizona Republic