Time in Negotiation: How to Use Deadlines and Time Constraints to Your Advantage

When it comes to negotiating, there is no tool more effective than time. Kids are experts at using time to their advantage. Think about the last time your child begged for something right as you were rushing out the door or if they asked you for money because they needed something for school right then. You, yourself, may have even been shopping and decided to buy something because it was only on sale for that day. Almost all of us have made decisions at some point as a result of time pressure. That’s because under pressure, people become more flexible. Time pressure has a way of hypnotizing us and can cause us to make decisions that we may not have made otherwise. Time constraints may be stressful, but they also force things to happen. Here are a few ways you can use deadlines and time constraints to your advantage when negotiating. 

Apply Deadline Pressure

Deadlines pressure negotiating parties into making a decision and they are used as a tactic to create movement in a negotiation. Smart negotiators can apply deadlines as a means for getting the other party to accept their offer. Despite the stress, deadlines force action, and that is often what is needed to propel a negotiation through the finish line. If people don’t know how long a negotiation will last, they tend to hold back in the beginning, saving their concessions for later. With a deadline, however, they are more inclined to play all their bargaining chips. If negotiators set a deadline and commit to it, they usually end up getting a better deal and they are likely to reach it faster. 

Remember the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is a well-known negotiation tool that states that 80% of negotiations happen in the last 20% of the time. Therefore, you don’t want to give up too much too fast. Rather, you want to save some of your leveraging power to pull out during the last 20% of the negotiation. That’s when you can make the best deal. This is also the best time to put the pressure on your counterpart. Generally speaking, about 80% of concessions come during the last 20% of the negotiation. 

Create Urgency and Leverage

By setting deadlines, you improve your negotiating ability by creating a sense of urgency that can motivate the other party to take action and make concessions. You can do this by making your deadlines appear beneficial. Perhaps you offer a discounted price for signing up by the deadline. You can also emphasize the costs of missing the deadline such as losing opportunities or facing penalties.