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

This story appears in the February 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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.

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