Hurry Up and Wait – Negotiating Strategies for the Impatient

Photo taken by Hannah Stelzl

“Hurry up and wait,” a common negotiating strategy for those on a deadline…Here’s how it works:

The Purchasing Strategy

First, purchasing needs your proposal, your pricing, details, etc. and they need it now.  Then suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt.  Dragging their feet often seems like laziness or lack of interest, but it might just be a well calculated strategy learned through their local negotiation expert.  The whole reason purchasing is done by a separate department is, they don’t have an urgency to get something, and they are not emotionally involved; perfect for talking price.

IT may need you, but purchasing doesn’t.  They don’t really understand your value nor your differentiation; however, they probably do have orders from IT (or whoever is actually making the purchase) to buy from you – with the caveat, “Get the best price.”   Keep this in mind during the process.  Unless it’s a pure product deal, purchasing in not actually making a decision here.

As long as they don’t really care about you, all the pressure is on you to close the deal.  You need them to make the sale, yet they can go elsewhere to get the same thing (or so they say).  You see where I’m going here…building on yesterday, if you don’t understand your client’s deadlines, there may be a date out there, but without that information in hand, you have lost all control because you’re the only one with a timeline – one that impacts your personal income.

Once purchasing figures this out, expect them to drag the purchase through days, weeks, or even months of indecision.  Every day, pressure is building for you to close as your managers wonder what happened.  Purchasing may stall by withholding information, asking for additional time to review your proposals, they may send you off to gather new information, or you may see them looking at numerous comparisons with other possible bidders.

Counter Strategy

When the proposal is handed in early, the deal is out of your control.  You don’t have commitment, and you have not been selected – at least you don’t know if you have. Try this…

1. Make sure you know who the asset owners are – those liable for the outcome of this project, and those who will depend on the systems you are selling – ones they will be relying on to perform their work.

2. Once the vision is clear, and everyone knows what is needed, you are sent off to write the proposal.  Wait.  Don’t run back to the office and start writing.  Instead come up with your options, identify the client’s urgent issues based on impact and likelihood, and then call the decision maker to review the need and discuss the options along with price.  Gain verbal approval on exactly what they are going to buy, and write down the language the buyer uses in describing what he is buying.

3. Write the proposal using the buyers own words.  You now have verbal approval, and you know you are the chosen provider, as long as the pricing can be worked out.  You know the urgent issues, and you know what kind of time frame you are working with.  Submit your pricing as an agreement, not a proposal, and patiently work through the purchasing process on their timeline, keeping their urgent issues in front of them.  Don’t make your quota or your company’s financial deadlines a part of the negotiation process or you are destined to lose.

© 2011, David Stelzl


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