“He just wanted me to get the deal done. “It’s time to stop the back and forth,” he said. “Just sign the deal.”
“Patience,” I told him. “We’ve got strong leverage here, a very good alternative, and I believe we can save a significant sum of money with one more move and a little more time. We’re close, but not quite there.”
We made another move, waited, and got a better deal. Was it frustrating? Somewhat. Was it worth the risk? Yes, given the savings and our good alternative. What should we learn from it?
The most effective negotiators exhibit certain personality traits, such as patience, that maximize their ability to get what they want. In fact, Marquette Law Professor Andrea Kupfer Schneider in a 2002 study found that effective negotiators are “both assertive (experienced, realistic, fair, astute, careful, wise) and empathetic (perceptive, communicative, accommodating, agreeable, adaptable). … Furthermore, (the effective negotiator) is good (ethical and trustworthy) and offers enjoyable company (personable, sociable, poised).”
I would add the following:
Patience often pays off. For some, the goal is just to get the deal. For the most effective negotiators, it’s to get the best deal possible given all the circumstances.
Often, it takes time and effort to explore parties’ limits and gather
sufficient information to determine the “best” deal. Take the time and put in the effort. It will pay off.
Of course, this can involve some risk that the negotiation will break down and go down the tubes. This sometimes happens. Parties must recognize this risk and be comfortable with it.
Overall, though, impatient negotiators often agree too early and leave value on the table. Don’t let this happen to you.
Persevere but don’t be stubborn. Star sports agent Leigh Steinberg in his book, “Winning with Integrity,” wrote that his negotiations with the Atlanta Falcons on behalf of quarterback Jeff George lasted from 1995 through 1996 and involved “what seemed like hundreds of hours of phone calls … and seven trips to Atlanta during that time.”
Over the course of these types of negotiations, Steinberg said he might “have to revisit an issue over and over and over again.” Some might find this upsetting. A waste of time, right? Wrong. It’s an important part of the process. As Steinberg noted, effective negotiation requires “tremendous patience and persistence, as well as physical stamina, resilience and perseverance.” Distinguish, however, between perseverance and stubbornness.
Parties that persevere largely do so strategically. They have a reason or principled basis to keep at it – such as strong leverage or the knowledge that their counterpart
historically caves at the end.
Excessively stubborn individuals, by contrast, often just stick at it blindly or for spite. While at times this may work, the risk is usually not worth it.
Be confident but not arrogant. You must believe to succeed. Do not underestimate the value of confidence and having faith in yourself and in what you’re trying to accomplish.
Negotiations inevitably ebb and flow – and you will face situations where it looks bleak. During those times, re-evaluate your goals and make sure you have reasonable and realistic expectations for the negotiation. If you do, don’t be shy about pointing it out.
Your attitude, confidence and sense of relative certainty will positively impact your counterpart.
“He sure sounds confident,” they might say to themselves or their colleagues. “I wonder what he knows that I don’t.”
Be careful you don’t appear arrogant, though. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The best way to stay on the confident side of the line is to be straightforward, matter-of-fact and relatively low-key when discussing your stronger issues. Don’t flaunt them or throw them in the other side’s face. It’s unnecessary and counterproductive.
Finally, don’t worry if you’re not naturally patient, persistent or confident. You can improve on these skills with practice.
I know you can do it.
Published September 5, 2003 The Business Journal