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Some people are unethical enough to use this against you. They hold out, until the last minute, elements of the negotiation that could have been brought up earlier and resolved simply. Then when you're getting ready to finalize the arrangements these problems come up because they know you'll be more flexible under time pressure.
Another thing that the principle of time pressure tells you is that you should always tie up all the details up front. Don't leave anything to, "Oh well, we can work that out later." A matter that appears to be of little importance up front can become a very big problem under time pressure.
I remember being in Kalispell, Montana, to do a seminar for the Montana graduates of the Realtors' Institute. These are the highest trained residential real estate people in the state. We were doing an all-day seminar on Power Negotiating and during the break an agent came up to me and said, "Perhaps you can help me. I have a big problem. It looks as though I'm going to lose a big part of my commission on a very large transaction."
I asked her to tell me more, and she said, "A couple of months ago a man came into my office and wanted me to list his $600,000 home. Well, I had never listed anything that large before, and I guess I didn't express as much confidence as I should have, because when he asked me how much commission I would charge, he flinched, and I fell for it. I told him six percent. He said: 'Six percent. That's $36,000! That's a lot of money.' So I said: 'Look, if you have to come down much on the price of the property, we'll work with you on the commission.' That's all I said, and I never gave it a second thought.
"As luck would have it, I ended up not only getting the listing, but I found the buyer as well. He didn't have to come down much on the price, so now I have almost the full $36,000 commission coming into my office, and the property is due to close next week. Yesterday he came into my office and said: 'I've been thinking about the amount of work that you had to do on that sale. You remember you told me that you'd work with me on the commission?'
"I said, 'yes.'
"'Well, I've been thinking about the amount of work you had to do, and I've decided that $5,000 would be a very fair commission for you.'"
$5,000 when she was due $36,000. She was almost panic-stricken. This illustrates that you shouldn't leave anything to "We can work that out later" because a little detail up front can become a big problem later when you're under time pressure.
That story also illustrates how we always think we have the weaker hand in negotiations-whichever side we're on. In fact, the real estate agent in Montana was in a very strong position wasn't she? As I explained to her, she had a written contact for the six percent. If anything, she had verbally modified it with a vague comment that wouldn't hold up in court anyway. So in fact she had all the power, but didn't think she had any.
However, why expose yourself to that kind of problem? Tie up all the details up front. When the other side says to you, "We can work that out later, it's not going to be a big problem," bells should start to ring and lights should start to flash. Don't let people do that to you.
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Copyright© 2003, Roger Dawson
Copyright © 2003, The Negotiator Magazine