In some negotiations it seems like the deal will never close. This can be a technique used by one side to wear down the participants of the other side, it could be the result of factors beyond the control of participants or something else. You may never know, but you may know that you want the deal to close and it seems to be taking longer than necessary. This commentary addresses the situation, when you need or want to close the deal and the other side does not or appears not to want to close the deal. So what should you do?
Reflect to avoid the situation in advance
In order to prevent this from happening in the first place consider negotiating the process from the beginning. By having milestones with mutually agreed to deadlines this can help alleviate this situation. The process can determine ground rules, participants, agendas, time frames and completion dates with ramifications. There are lessons that can be learned from the Brexit vote in Great Britain on closing the deal. Your situation may not be this complicated, but you can learn lessons from that situation.
Take a break
This is a very simple, yet this approach can be very effective.. Often as negotiations wear on and potentially as one side or both sides become entrenched, taking a break can help clear the air and allow the parties to reflect with their own caucus and creatively return with a more productive perspective. The duration could be 15 minutes, an hour, a day, a week or a month. Upon a review of your team’s take on your own and the other party’s perspective (position(s) and interests) it may be possible to look at the entire negotiation in a new light. This may allow you to come with some fresh ideas to help the other side to reach closure sooner.
Have deadlines along the way
Deadlines impact both parties to the negotiation. Deadlines can help parties to become more creative and can encourage concessions. Keep in mind that deadlines impact both parties. Often focusing on our own interests, we tend to not fully consider the impact on the other party. Explore their interests and what you perceive as the deadline impacts on them as well. This may lead to discussions and help in understanding their situation that too may lead to closure sooner.
Consider an exclusive negotiating period
In some instances, there may be multiple negotiations going on at the same time. You may be negotiating with the other party and they may be negotiating with one of your competitors at the same time. Offer to have an exclusive negotiation with the other party for a period of time. This will allow the other party to focus on you, your concerns and how the other party may react to your concerns. You may have no idea what may be impacting the other party internally or externally but by offering this as an alternative this may help break their procrastination.
Change the participants
Perhaps a member of your team is not as receptive to various considerations and by bringing in someone that does not have ownership of the issue, this may allow your team to broaden your perspective. Sometimes an entirely different team may enter the process. By bringing in a new team it may be possible to indeed begin with a fresh start. Sometimes you may want to share your observations discretely with a team member of the other team if one of their members appears to be the issue. Perhaps the other side changing a team member may help move the negotiations along.
Consider a contingent contract
A contingent contract relies on future considerations. According to this article these types of contracts can be used to address issues when a party does not have all the facts and wishes to protect themselves, diagnose areas of mistrust, motivate performance, align interests, turn differences of opinion into mutual value, overcome biases and reduce risk. Many times, negotiators don’t see this as an option, but a good negotiator will consider contingent contracts for their tool box of alternatives.
Bring in a mediator
When parties find they are at an impasse mediation may offer an alternative to help the parties look beyond their positions and initial perspectives on interests to find a reasonable range that may make more sense. You need to explore what makes a good mediator when consideration a mediator based on your situation.