Pacemakers

In deal-making, the clock is mightier than even the pen.

Superior deal-makers are always aware of their relative power at the bargaining table. They know when they'll have the most leverage and when they'll have the least. They're constantly on guard against the unexpected event (the entry of a competitor, an approaching deadline, a tough break for their adversary and so on) that shifts the advantage in their direction. That's how they arrange things so time is on their side.

By noting the rhythm of the other side's responses-by phone, fax, e-mail or in a meeting-you can gauge their enthusiasm, need and greed. If opponents pick up the pace, it usually means they're eager. Of course, the more they want it, the more they have to pay for it. If their responsiveness drops, you can assume that their interest level has, too.

Although playing hard to get has its place, don't worry about looking desperate just because you keep your negotiations moving right along. After all, timely responses build momentum, increase focus and enhance cooperation. And with all the details, egos, positions, interests and technical difficulties that are thrown together in any half-way-complicated deal, a little eagerness can actually be a relief to some.

Some strategists recommend keeping the other side off-guard through change-of-pace tactics. Perhaps an occasional well-executed drop in enthusiasm could make the other side try harder. More likely, such a ruse may backfire and brand you as manipulative, clumsy or indecisive.


A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is the author of Deal Power: 6 Foolproof Steps to Making Deals of Any Size (Owl Books/Henry Holt). You can reach him at MarcDiener@aol.com.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pacemakers.

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