How To End A Negotiation Impasse

How Do You Achieve A Breakthrough In A Stalled Negotiation?

PurchTips Edition #380

Sometimes, negotiations with a supplier stall. Where, no matter how much you discuss something, neither side will budge from its position.  There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that claims that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So, how do you avoid insanity and break through a negotiation impasse? Here are three changes you can make…

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  1. Change The Communication Medium. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference in negotiations. One particularly effective small change can come in the form of changing the communication medium. Here’s a word-for-word line I’ve used in a recent negotiation that broke a days-long impasse: “I am concerned that there may be some misinterpretations (on both sides) as to the ‘tone of voice’ of the emails we’ve been exchanging. Because emails don’t convey tone of voice – or the spirit of win-win relationships with which I like to communicate – I’ll give you a call when I get the chance.” So, if you’re negotiating by email, switch to phone negotiations. If you’re negotiating by phone, switch to in-person negotiations.
  2. Change Your Tactics. There are many different negotiation tactics available. They range on a continuum of hard-nosed negotiation to true win-win negotiation. If you’re using tactics on one side of the continuum and find yourself at an impasse, try using tactics from the other side.
  3. Change The Participants. When two people reach a negotiation impasse, it can be frustrating for each party. Both individuals may start to dislike each other. And the last thing anyone wants to do in a negotiation is concede a “victory” to someone they don’t like. So, continuing a battle with the same two people is unproductive. You can rectify this by make a suggestion like this to your supplier: “Look, it seems like you and I keep discussing this issue without reaching an agreement that we can proudly take to our bosses. What do you think about each of us getting ourselves and our bosses in the same room and the four of us hashing things out until we end up with an agreement?”

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Copyright 2017. This article is the property of the Next Level Purchasing Association and may not be copied or republished in any form without the express written consent of the Next Level Purchasing Association. Click here to request republishing permission.

By Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3