Bring Your Deal Back from the Brink: Probe the Other Side’s Point of View

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What can you do when a difficult person is the main obstacle to a promising deal? There are a number of strategies that you can use to bring the deal back from the brink of failure. In a series of posts, the Program on Negotiation will offer suggestions.

Probe the Other Side’s Point of View

How can you figure out the motives behind someone’s seemingly stubborn position? Begin by questioning her about the problem she is trying to solve. Deal blockers may be held back by financial, legal, personal, or other constraints you don’t know about, according to Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra. A tough stance could also communicate a psychological need that isn’t being satisfied.

Put Forth Multiple Proposals

Sometimes people will block deals simply to get your attention. By developing several proposals that meet your interests well and that also address the other side’s needs, you convey the important message that you’ve been listening.

Be Ready to Walk

Threats and punishment may be necessary when you’re negotiating with people who rigidly adhere to all their demands, according to Stanford’s Stephen John Stedman. You must be prepared to follow through on your threats, of course. That’s why it’s crucial for you to research your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) at the same time you’re negotiating your preferred deal.

Share Your Feelings

When someone calls off a deal at the last minute, don’t assume she’s deliberately trying to hurt you. It could very well be that she’s preoccupied with her own interests and hasn’t thought about how her decision will affect you.

For this reason, not only do you need to give potential deal spoilers a chance to vent, but also you need to articulate your own frustrations constructively. By doing so, you can encourage the other party to understand your perspective and guide her toward more collaborative behavior.


Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


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