I do have a concern that as more market sectors become “price sensitive” we are losing the art of negotiation: I also understand and appreciate that many frontline sales professionals – and senior executives too, for that matter – are not comfortable negotiating. I enjoy it very much, and I have always particularly relished the final act, where things can get very tense.
The closing stages of any negotiation are vital to the overall success of the final deal.
There will come a time when both parties can sense an outcome is possible and each negotiator needs to be careful not to be too eager to close – or else the other party will be tempted to hold back for further concessions.
Once a likely outcome is seen, either party may define outstanding issues, compare arguments and objections, review the position to date and agree a deadline for agreement. If one side avoids making these decisions, the other must probe to find out the reason and deal with it effectively. Negotiators must be careful at this stage to identify tactical delay, which deliberately attempts to force further concessions.
The best solution to aim for always is one where both parties feel they have done well, despite having to concede on certain issues. This is of course called a “win-win” solution.
Once either side feels they have arrived at the final deal, it is important to signal this to the other party.
Body language can say as much about what you are thinking as speech. If you have made your final offer, look as if it is your final offer.
Simply gathering up your papers, looking at the other side directly in the eye and saying “That is my final offer” can do this, and silence can be a powerful tool in convincing them you mean what you say.
Be wary of splitting the difference. If you offer to split the difference, you have, in effect, given the other side a concession that is one-sided. You have said you are prepared to move without asking for commitment in return.
The final consideration is when you have done the deal and both parties are in agreement. Record the details and agree with the other parties involved that your interpretation of events matches theirs. That way there will be no unexpected comeback in the inevitable post-negotiation period when either side reviews how well or badly he/she has done. Again, this will be minimized if the solution you have arrived at benefits both parties.
A final word of caution …
The closing stages need to be approached with caution. It has been shown that the majority of concessions are given or traded in the last 5% of the time allocated for negotiation. That means if you negotiate for one hour, the last three minutes are when you are most vulnerable.