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Welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! Nolan and Aram answer another listener’s question in today’s episode: How do you approach instant negotiations with little notice? Is effective preparation even possible on the fly?
Nobody sane attempts negotiating unprepared. That’s an obvious recipe for failure.
However, there are times when a higher-up says “Get the negotiator in here,” leaving you an hour or less of prep time.
Like it or not, instant negotiations happen. Meanwhile, other companies or organizations abruptly shift established timetables forward.
For instance, sometimes an out-of-town CEO has a family emergency. At other times, lower numbers from the last quarter have spooked a board into a saucer-eyed stampede.
Whatever the cause, that research you’d planned to start Sunday evening will be needed after lunch. There’s no avoiding it.
Before we get into solutions, a disclaimer is appropriate: What follows isn’t for procrastinators. These insights are for serious negotiators; people who normally do their homework ahead of the need.
With that said—assuming you fit this category—don’t panic! The situation isn’t ideal, but success isn’t necessarily out of the picture.
Your first option is to verify the time limit: Could you negotiate for a better one? This isn’t always feasible, but sometimes it’s worth trying.
Once in a while, a party may deliberately try rushing things as a manipulation tactic. Hopefully, this isn’t the case, but it’s worth ruling out, as well.
If the need is truly urgent, try to find out why. Is there any potential damage to the relationship? Has communication gone sideways somehow?
Next, start focusing on in-the-circle elements. Review your fears, needs, concerns, and motivations?
Who can you contact for ideas and input? It doesn’t take long to compose, copy, and then paste a text message to 5 people.
Open with something like, “I’ve got an opportunity here.” From there, explain your concern and close with “Any suggestions?”
If all goes well, you may have fresh ideas within minutes. Try to harness those multiple perspectives.
The next concern is your standard(s) of legitimacy. You’re going to have to reference something that’s fair, reasonable, and defensible, even in instant negotiations.
Believe it or not, if you’re getting desperate, you can invite one from the other side.
In response, you can always ask in complementary ways, “How did you come up with that?” and “How do we know this is fair?” As long as you’re polite, you should get something to build with.
Take stock of your BATNA. As a precautionary measure, determine possible outcomes, should you walk away from the table.
Note where your risks are, too. The more time constraints make it necessary to glaze over things, the more important it becomes to remember those.
Don’t fail the people you represent by wimping out. Instead, look at the probability of the worst-case scenarios. Many of the things we’re most inclined to worry about never happen.
Next, consider the magnitude. If things went absurdly sideways, how much would it impact you or your organization? Would it be catastrophic, annoying, or simply a non-event?
This can benefit brainstorming options with your counterpart(s). State your concerns in a friendly manner and then ask, “How do we develop situations to mitigate and manage this?”
In addition to gaining their insight, your honesty can further trust-building. This, in turn, can lead to a more cooperative, mutually beneficial dynamic.
If you have Internet access and a few minutes, NEGOTIATEx has a free prep tool to help organize your thoughts, as well. It walks you through risk assessment and more.
FYI, Nolan and Aram have a webinar coming up on February 22nd at noon EST. You can reserve your seat by signing up here. There will be a topic or two, but most of the time is reserved for your questions.
Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening!
Nolan Martin : Hello, and welcome to another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I am your co-host and co-founder Nolan Martin. And with me today is my good friend, co-founder co-host everything above: Aram Donigian. Aram, how are you doing today?
Aram Donigian : Good. The year off to a good start for you, Nolan?
NM : Yep. Yep. It is good. You know, it's, it's gonna have to be better than 2021. I we've all had enough of 2021. So, you know, here's to staying positive for 2022. We
AD : We said that about 2020 too. So hopefully we're on an upward trajectory. So we'll see
NM : How's everything going for, for you and the family?
AD : We're good. We're, we're enjoying a beautiful winter up in New Hampshire.
NM : We had a very warm December, but, um, it's, it's definitely starting to feel more like winter here in Virginia, DC area. As we roll into January today, we have another question from our listeners. And so Aram and I, these are definitely our favorite questions, our favorite episodes, because it's not us coming up at the material. We gotta figure out what issues you are having and try and solve those. And that's always a lot more fun than us just trying to figure out what to talk about. And I think it's more exciting for you as well. But today's question is “How might we approach a negotiation when there's little time to plan and prepare?” Over to you, sir.
AD : Yeah, we would all love to think that never happens. That we're all gonna have just the right amount of time to get well prepared to have this whole thing planned out. And, and, and oftentimes that doesn't happen. Now we wanna make sure it's not happening because we haven't kicked the can and we actually could have anticipated this negotiation. We knew it was coming. We just chose not to get well prepared. That's that's fundamentally different, right? That's that's much different. That's being a very lazy negotiator and we need to go back and say, we knew this was coming and we could have gotten well prepared. I often remember some senior folks we've worked with before when asked, “well how much time do you spend preparing?” They said, “well, how long does it take to get from my office, from my counterparts office?” Right? which if it's a fight from, you know, New York to, you know, Beijing, great, that's gonna be probably, you're probably be well prepared if it's, you know, um, around the corner.
Well you're not gonna be nearly as well period. So I like to make sure that we're really, you know, talking about the real thing, which is, this is something I didn't anticipate. This is an opportunity that came down. This is not a routine sort of negotiation with a supplier that we commonly work with. Therefore that's, it's a, what we would call in the military, a target of opportunity and we need to seize on the moment. Time truly is of the essence and, and, and, and we need to execute. And so that's, that's more kind of my thinking on this. We gotta make sure that it's, it's, it really kind of fits that bill.
NM : And I think that's kind of the first thing we need to figure out in this is, is it a time sensitive target? I mean, is, do we really only have a little bit of time or as we've talked about before Aram, do we have the ability to negotiate for more time?
AD : Right. And are we, cuz we've talked about, you know, tactics that people use, you know, best time to buy a car is typically at the end of a quarter. end of the year. People trying to make. Right. And,
NM : Unless you talk to a salesman, then the best time to buy a car is right then. Right.
AD : Right. So the people have, the folks we're working with have drivers. They know we have drivers. We know that time does factor into negotiations. We just wanna be careful that it's not a manipulation to guard against that. And so what you're saying, I think is a great one, right? We don't always negotiate just to get to a signed deal. Sometimes you negotiate to extend the amount of time you have that we can, we can reach a good decision. Sometimes we need to negotiate for more information so that we can reach a good decision over time. We need to negotiate maybe to escalate the us, uh, through internal channels for both of us in. So that we can get more permissions to be able to negotiate more broadly than what we have right now. I mean, there can be any number of reasons that somebody negotiates checking the time assumption is a really good one. Make sure it's not being used as a manipulation tactic, you know, against you.
NM : Yeah, I think, you know, last episode we had talked about taking the time, finding the time to get more creative unfettered, brainstorming of options. And so maybe that's something that we also need to explore here is, Hey, is it going to be more advantageous if maybe we get a few more people to generate just a few more options so that we make sure that we are coming up with the best outcome at the end of the day? So I think that's definitely applicable here when we talk about time.
AD : Yeah, it is. I tend to tell folks if, if this, okay, it what's the nature: Let's not talk urgency here. So what's the nature of the urgent, the negotiation, if this is an urgent negotiation and it is coming up because there is either damage or potential damage to relationship or there's confusion about something because of poor communication, heck we need, we need to focus on those things first and set aside any sort of substantive solutions because we need to deal with perceptions. We need to deal with trust. Okay. So that, that comes to understanding the essence of the negotiation. If it though, to kinda your point, Nolan is around the substance and we really are under time, we coach folks to kind of focus on call those “in the circle elements”. And those are things that as I'm bumping along or, you know, in a, in a, in a Humvee I'm thinking about, but as we're, as we are like reacting to the moment, say, what are the interests?
What are my fears, needs, concerns and motivations I'm trying to satisfy right now that this is a target of opportunity? What are my interests? Am I really clear on those to your point? What are some different ways we can solve that? By the way I can text, you know, five people, they don't need to be in the room. I can send a text real quickly. Hey, got an opportunity here. Here's what I think we're concerned about. Any suggestions, any ideas. And I can do that very quickly and try to harness that multiple perspective, you know, brain power right away. And then, and then the, you know, what's what, you know, what are the criteria? How do we know that this is something fair and legitimate? Cuz even in the moment, I'm gonna have to come back with something that's fair, reasonable defendable.
So I'm gonna need some sort of standard and legitimacy. Do I have one? Can I get one, can I invite one from the other side right away? How did you come up with that? This seems like a really good idea. How do we know this is fair and defendable? And then the last one is I just wanna do a quick reality check with my BATNA and say, well, before I jump in because boy, I'm excited. That's what right. And that's, I'm allowing myself to be driven by time. Reality check. What happens if I don't agree? What happens if I let the time pass and we've missed this opportunity, am I really in as bad a shape as I'm assuming I might be? Let me really check what my BATNA might be to walk away and go do something else or even my BATNA being: Let's wait, let's just wait and see what happens.
NM : And, and as we talk about this, you know, I just have like vivid memories. I used to be, uh, what was called an observer coach trainer at JRTC at Fort Polk, Louisiana. If you live anywhere near Fort Polk, Louisiana, I am so sorry, because that was a long four years of living next to nothing. Anyways, I remember, you know, there's always just continuous missions that the unit that's going through this training always has to keep, keep planning for, to be able to have a plan so that when the time came down to it, they have something to go off. Right? And so in the military, we have this thing called the military decision making process, generally the executive officer. So the number two and command for an organization, he or she controls the military decision making process. And so it's a bunch of steps that the staff is essentially going to work through until they end up with the plan of, of how they're going to accomplish this.
And in that process, the XO has ability to expedite certain areas, maybe slow down of their areas. And it basically all comes down to how much risk do they want to take during the plan that they're creating. Right. If you don't consider the enemy, then that's a big risk because the enemy's always gonna have a vote. And so if you decide to overlook that part of the plan, it may not go that well for you. And I think that's kind of the same thing that we're seeing here is if you are time constrained, you've really got to focus on where your risks are and make sure that you at least think through that process. If you're going to, you know, look over some of the other steps, glaze over some of the other steps to really get to an outcome, if it is truly a time sensitive negotiation. How's that sound, is that inaccurate?
AD : Yeah, it's really accurate. And let's just use this as an opportunity, kind of a springboard here to talk about risk because a lot of people will say, well, if there's any risk involved at all, well then I, I shouldn't do it. And, and I would, I would caution this to maybe just say, let's, let's shift that the thinking a little bit and if we can do what you're saying, saying, “Hey, this is a great opportunity.” And to, to meet it, we're gonna have to streamline things. We're still gonna want to remain disciplined. Let's consider. Let's not just pretend like those risks don't, don't don't exist. Let's talk about risks in a couple ways though. Let's first of all, talk about risks in terms of what is the probability that they're gonna occur, cuz even if it's like, well, it's, that's a risk. Yep. And it's got a really little probability of occurring. Okay.
And what's the magnitude. If it happens, is it hitting, is it hitting the news line tomorrow or not? Right? Is it not a headline sort of event? Is it not catastrophic to Austin, to our business and everything else? So probability in magnitude first and then with that in mind, and as we're using, getting into options saying, “Hey, well we do have some, some concerns. How do we develop solutions around things to mitigate and manage risk and both with regards to probability and, and magnitude, what can I do?” What could you do? What request could I make of you to help with the risk management piece? What could we do together? How do we pool our collective resources? Now, all of a sudden between what I, you and we can do with regards to of both probability and magnitude, we come up with six ways, right? The math two times six, two times three, six, so six things we can discuss to manage what is potentially a huge concern interest around time and moving quickly that can help generate better solutions and still allow us to maybe move forward, given the opportunity we see.
NM : Yeah and I think, I think that's huge is just really evaluating the risk and not necessarily being so risk adverse that you're not willing to potentially go through with something. I think that's huge there. I think this kind of goes back to, you know, if I were advising anyone or I was going into a hasty negotiation, there is one tool that I would bring with me and I would at least make sure that I spend enough time thinking through it, even if I don't have enough time to write everything down. And that's the NEGOTIATEx Prep Tool, a bunch of different names throughout the negotiating world, but this is a tool where you can organize your thoughts and it's gonna help you really think through the risks that you may not be seeing just, just through, you know, initially brainstorming this negotiation. Right so I think that's just huge to at least be able to think through all of the steps and truly identify where that risk is. Is there anything else that's helpful there, Aram?
AD : Yeah, no, I think those, I think that's, that's fantastic. I think that the, the only other two things I might add to the idea of getting, you know, still, still brainstorming, even if it's kind of streamlined, uh, or getting prepared, even if it's streamlined would be one, you're gonna be able to respond to time much better. If, if there is, if you've had the opportunity, whether it's with the external party, maybe perhaps that this negotiation is with to have addressed relationship and built trust and rapport over time, if that exists, then, then the ability to negotiate under great time pressures of that much greater. And if it's a new, external relationship, but your internal dynamics are really well oiled, right? Because you've spent even invested in the relationships there and there is trust and understanding and good protocols in place. Well, you're also gonna be able to execute really well. And so, I'd like to think of the idea that I can be preemptively prepared for opportunity when both relationship, but also the management of my processes is good. Communication are well established beforehand.
NM : Yeah. I think all of those are extremely important and something that's not gonna happen overnight. So making sure you're taking the proactive steps to get there with your team with your counterparts is something you gotta focus on. Anything else we wanna cover for, for this Aram?
AD : I'm just gonna throw out one of my favorite quotes. Cause I, as you're talking just now you made me think about Louis Pasteur said chance favors the prepared mind. The more preparation you can already carry with you, whether that is preparation around what the issue's gonna be or preparation in terms of, you know, the dynamics and the situation in which you're negotiating or the way in which you're gonna walk into the negotiation even when it's just a popup negotiation, you will be more successful if your mindset has been honed and trained and developed before you ever get into that situation.
NM : I think that's an awesome quote and I; I love every single time you share it. Now I think that this is a good part for us to put a plug in and that's for the Negotiate Pro member-only side of our website. It's coming out on 1st March. We're gonna have a webinar on February 22nd at noon Eastern. You can sign up for that if you go to negotiatex.com/webinar. Now I think with NEGOTIATEx, like Aram and I are experts on the process of negotiations, right? Using tools to, to help you formulate your expert opinion in your industry and your business so that you can overcome the problems that you may encounter. And so with that, we've developed a pro side, member side of the website where we're gonna have tools. You're gonna have, you know, monthly access to Aram and I through webinars. Q&A sessions forums where you'll be able to interact with, with anyone else who may be having issues with negotiations, or, you know, it's like a mastermind group for like-minded individuals.
All of this is gonna live on the pro side, the member only side of the website. And so we'll discuss this and more on February 22nd. So again, if you go to negotiate x.com/webinars, free webinar, you can sign up and we can dig a little bit more into this, and you'll be able to ask any questions that you may be having in your business and we'll be answering them on the fly with that. This is a podcast that is all about taking action in your business, in your life. So Aram, what action items do we have for our listeners from today's update?
AD : Sure. Time is a real factor in negotiations. You're gonna have some things that pop up in, in the world in which we live, cause we're not living in a static world, but a very, a very, you know, kind of diverse and engaging world. So we gotta be able to, uh, respond well to time constraints. Time does, should not drive us to, reverting back to bad behaviors. Rather we should stay disciplined. We need to be able to identify the nature of problems, uh, and still prepare where appropriate to address even when under tight time constraints. And we are going to have to be aware of assumptions we're making, especially regarding risk and rather than just being risk adverse. If, if we can have those discussions in the moment and really break down risk into these two different components of probability and magnitude, we can find, you know, up to six different kind of ways to have that conversation with our counterpart around what we can do, what they can do and what we can do together to address those things.
NM : Yeah. And I think having the NEGOTIATEx prep tool in your notebook, if you have one, if you're still old school and carry a notebook to have it inside of this, so that if you're ever in a time constrained negotiation, you have the ability to at least look at the prep tool where you can think through all the different aspects of the negotiation that we highly advise you think through. And as Aram said, you'll be able to identify where the risks may be. And at the end of the day, you are the leader who gets paid the big bucks to identify those risks and come up with creative solutions. So again, that's just a tool to help you do that. Appreciate you listening to today's episode, Aram and I are very thankful that you are still here. You're still listening and we definitely appreciate it. Come join us February 22nd at noon Eastern. And again, you sign firstname.lastname@example.org/webinar. We'll see you over in the next episode.
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