What Do You Do When Negotiations Stall?

by Kentin Waits on 15 August 2011 0 comments
Photo: DrGBB

There's no higher high than scoring a great deal through the time-honored art of negotiation. Other times, an intense round of haggling can leave you feeling like you've been strained through a rusty colander and left to bake in the sun. Such is the nature of an activity that combines commerce, emotion, and ego.

Whether buyer or seller, what do you do when you meet your match at the negotiating table? How do you get beyond the impasse to successfully buy or sell your item? What are the best negotiation strategies for breaking a deadlock and leaving both parties feeling victorious? Here are a few ideas to keep in your back pocket the next time you find yourself in that familiar test of wills. (See also: The 7 Laws of Negotiation)

Don't Panic

If you're locking horns on price or terms, don't panic. Keep things in perspective and realize that this deal, no matter how great it could be, will not be the last. Panic only leads to one of three outcomes: anger — which always polarizes buyers and sellers; frustration — which ends the entire process; or a quick agreement — which ultimately leaves someone dissatisfied. Avoid all three; keep your cool.

Get Creative

Some deals require an out-of-the-box approach. Maybe a buyer has limited cash, but can offer something in trade. Maybe a seller can't lower his price, but can sweeten the deal by throwing in something extra. Buyers and sellers who get to know a bit about each other have a better chance of striking a deal with some creative terms.

Sell Yourself

The process of buying and selling is emotional. Depending on the situation, sellers can be especially sentimental about parting with their items. Maybe a child is liquidating her parents' estate after their death; maybe a senior citizen is finally selling the first car or motorcycle he ever bought. In these moments, realize that deals are done partly with money and partly with heart. Try to tip the scales in your favor by explaining how you will use the item, enjoy it, and take care of it. Conveying a genuine sensitivity to the situation can go miles toward making a deal work.

Take a Break

Often, the very best deals take time. Sure, it's nice to hammer out an agreement on the spot, but every situation is different. If you feel like you're not making headway and devoting more time will only stall the inevitable, suggest a break. For example, if you're the buyer, you might say something like, "Well, you've given me a lot to think about. I'm still interested, but I'm going to have to mull it over and get back to you." Of course, walking away from any deal is risky, but sometimes the occasion calls for a breather and a bit of distance can help put things in perspective.

Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away

Similarly, sometimes deals seem doomed to fail. Not being afraid to walk away helps buyers and sellers avoid a transaction they will only regret later. Walking away may mean an end to the deal, or it may call up that last bit of motivation that both parties need to reach an agreement.

Remember, good negotiating leaves both buyer and seller happy. Haggling isn't about taking advantage of someone with the goal of getting a "steal of a deal." It's about reaching an agreement that honors both the needs of the seller and the limits of the buyer. When the process hits a roadblock, stay calm and channel your creativity to make it work for everyone.

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