Negotiating Under Time Pressure

Negotiating Under Time Pressure

It’s the end of the quarter, and Don’s sales numbers aren’t quite what they should be. Don has been hopefully working with a big customer over the past two months to nail down a contract that, if won, would put him well past quota.

His director has been putting a ton of pressure on him for the past two weeks, though, and the stress has been getting to Don. Today’s bad news has frayed his nerves almost to the breaking point.

Somehow, Don’s big customer seems to have caught wind of the situation, and decided to schedule the final contract negotiation… at 3:00 on the last day of the quarter.

Who will have the upper hand in this negotiation? Clearly, it’s not Don. His customer has decided to use time to their advantage. It is a difficult situation to be in, and one that you would be wise to avoid at all costs.

The Impact of Time Pressure

Dealing with deadlines and time pressures can cause undue stress, and can also lead to lopsided negotiations and money left on the table. Regardless of whether you are a purchasing agent needing to acquire materials before they run out, a contracts analyst working to help your sales department close a year-end deal, or an executive seeking to seal a merger before nervous shareholders scream too loudly, knowing how to manage time is a critical skill.

Managing time properly not only enables you to avoid excessive pressure, it also enables both parties to weigh situations and consider various options without feeling overly rushed to agree to terms.

In some instances, specific clauses or proposals may require approval from individuals who are not present at the actual negotiation – a C-level executive, legal or accounting departments, or the Board. Allowing sufficient time for review and approval processes will help accommodate these situations.

Here are three top tips to help you manage time during a negotiation:

Deadlines – When faced with a deadline in a negotiation, ask yourself who controls the deadline. Is the deadline imposed or controlled by you, or by the other party? If it is internally imposed, is it a realistic deadline? If the client has imposed it, is it set in stone? What are the reasons for the deadline? Is it artificial? Is it flexible? Try to gather as much information to determine why a deadline exists and if it can be influenced. If necessary, it never hurts to ask more time.

Be Willing to Bend on Time – There may be times when the other party may ask you for more time during a negotiation. One of the keys of principled negotiations is to be willing to act in good faith to ensure that a win-win situation and strong relationship will emerge from a negotiation. Providing additional time, within reason, shows the other party that you are open to working with them. Of course, if providing additional time results in an advantage for them or places you at a disadvantage, it may simply be a tactic. Ask a few probing questions to find out why they need more time. Ultimately, you should seek to take actions that ensure a positive outcome for you while also protecting the relationship with the other party.

Don’t Allow Negotiations to Stall – In those instances when the other party requests additional time, or the negotiation is paused or delayed for another reason, be sure to impose a deadline and set up a new negotiation meeting. Don’t let any momentum you have managed to build so far fall by the wayside by allowing a negotiation to stall.


Baker Communications offers leading edge Negotiations Training solutions that will help you address the goals and achieve the solutions addressed in this article. For more information about how your organization can achieve immediate and lasting behavior change that leads to bigger wins during negotiations in any setting, click here.