Negotiators Need To Know: When Is A Negotiation Truly Over?

I believe that we can all recognize when a negotiation starts. It might even be possible to recognize we are about half-way through – some issues have been resolved, more remain to be discussed. However, one of the most difficult questions that a negotiator needs to be able to answer is just exactly when is it truly over?

When Is A Negotiation NOT Over?

I guess before we can talk about when a negotiation is over, we might first want to have a quick talk about when a negotiation is NOT over. There can be a number of different times during a negotiation when it might seem as though things are wrapping up, but you would be wrong.

The first time that you might be fooled into thinking that a negotiation is over is when both sides of the table reach an agreement. This is a good first step, but by no means is the negotiation over yet. The next step is to write a memo of agreement – once again it might start to look like the negotiations are wrapping up. They are not.

Many negotiators make the mistake of believing that when a contract has been written or even when both sides of the table have agreed to it, the negotiation is now done. However, since this is simply an agreement, the negotiation cannot be considered to be done. Finally, when the product or the service that has been covered by the contract has been delivered you would think that now, the negotiation has got to be done. The answer is no, not yet.

The Next Negotiation

The reason that the negotiation is not done is because at each of the negotiation milestones that we’ve discussed, differences between both sides of the table can still pop up. When this happens, you are going to have to head back to the negotiating table to resolve these new issues.

You would think that once the services or products that had been contracted for had been delivered, then finally the negotiation would be complete. However, what you need to realize is that rarely if ever is a negotiation the last interaction between the two parties that were at the table. More often than not this negotiation may have been the start of a much longer relationship.

Understanding that the conclusion of one negotiation is simply the start of the next one is key to realizing the flow of negotiations. They often never come to an end. Instead, it’s better to treat the conclusion of one negotiation as simply the start of the next negotiation. If you use this wrap-up time to lay the groundwork for your next negotiation, then when the time comes you will have made your negotiating life that much easier.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the biggest challenges that negotiators face is knowing when a negotiation is truly over. There can be a number of false signals that could indicate that the process has completed, but you would be mistaken. These include reaching agreement, writing the agreement down, signing the contract, or even doing the agreed to work.

Instead, experienced negotiators know that the negotiating process is never over because even as the current negotiation wraps up, plans for the next round of negotiations need to be laid out. The process of negotiating with the other side of the table is a never ending process.

Although this may have seemed like a trick question – the answer is “never”, don’t think of it that way. Instead, view the work that you put into wrapping up one principled negotiation as a future payment that you are making to prepare for your next negotiation with this partner.

How to Negotiate in a Team

Do you ever find yourself negotiating as part of a team?

Have you ever wondered about the best way to approach negotiations in a team format?

The complexity within which businesses operate often creates the need for organisations to engage in negotiations in a team based format.This often adds a dimension to negotiations for which you can easily be under prepared.

There are three key elements that you need to be aware of and prepare for before engaging in team based negotiations:

1. Role definition

It is critical that you never take anyone into a negotiation without having given them a clear role to play within the negotiation. We know that your role in life is closely tied to your feeling of security.

This means that if you are in a negotiation and you have not been given a clear role then it may feel to you that you need to make a contribution in any way possible so as to justify you being a part of the team.

This contribution can often be out of sync with the planned strategy & could compromise your positions & interests.

Furthermore, experienced negotiators may be able to unduly influence members of your team by creating a role for those members to whom you have not assigned clear roles.

You can further optimise the team structure by separating the focus on the Task (the technical, financial & legal aspects) and the Relationship (long term, people focus) elements of the negotiation.

2. Cover the Four Pillars of negotiation.

When composing a negotiation team it is important that you think about the contributions that can be made by potential team members on three different levels:


We all have different preferences when it comes to negotiations. We tend to focus on the elements within the Four Pillars of negotiation (Vision, Value, Process, Relationships) that coincide with our personal preferences. It is therefore important that you select team members in such a way as to ensure that you are adequately addressing each of the Four Pillars.


Just like you have preferences for different elements of the negotiation lifecycle, you will also have varying competencies when it comes to addressing the Four Pillars. Ensure that team members have the necessary competence to cover the role that has been assigned to them.


We know that knowledge does not provide us with any power on its own – it is only when combined with action that knowledge will deliver results. (Think about it – if knowledge delivered results then nobody would be smoking anymore as we all know smoking is detrimental to our health!). It is key to include members in your team that have demonstrated the behaviours required to add value.

3. Team size

Generally speaking, it is better to have a small team rather than a large team. The larger the team, the more complexity associated with managing the team and the longer it will take you to reach agreement.

Use the minimum amount of team members and try to structure the team in such a way that a leader is present (preferably assuming the role of focusing on the Relationship) supported by an individual focusing on the Task elements of the negotiation.

It is often useful for you to have an individual play the role of an observer. In my experience, an observer almost always will share information with you at the end of the negotiations that most team members would have missed purely because they are focused & engaged in the negotiation.

It is good to prepare in a team format where all your stakeholders are included and where you are able to harvest the inputs of all present.

Conversely, it is better to engage in negotiations with as few team members as possible so as to ease the management burden & to ensure a smoother interaction with your counterparties.

It is also interesting to be aware of the impact of team negotiations on time….the more people involved, the longer it will take you to reach agreement & vice versa.

So if you want to reach agreement quickly, restrict the size of your team. If you would like to extend the negotiation time, add some members to your team & invite the other team to follow suit.

A System For Writing a Business Speech Or Presentation

Great business speakers write their speeches according to a system. The benefits are twofold:

1. You have a repeatable process that takes you from start to finish

2. You include all content elements that are important to the audience

Imagine a road traveling from left to right, or from your Attention-Getting Opening to your Call-to-Action closing thoughts. Along this road are scenic highlights and diversions that make it more fun or interesting or compelling to travel to the destination.

The destination is your Call-to-Action close. Just as you bound out of the car at your destination and take part in the delights of the place, so does your audience leave the speech or presentation with an eagerness to do something they haven’t done before.

The opening of your speech is like revving your engine, putting the car into drive and getting on the road. You have a glimmer of what lies ahead and you’re eager to get going.

Along the way you have stopping points for rest and refueling. These are the roles of your Key Points. The Key Points make it clear that the destination is meaningful.

Just as on a road trip, you will want some diversions or special sights to make the destination even more desirable. In your speech or presentation, these are your Leading Materials. Notice that I do not relegate these delights to the category of supporting points.

Instead of passing by a key point and then saying, “by the way, what we just passed was such and such and here is why it is important” you will entice the listener towards acceptance of your key points by offering interesting nuggets in advance. Those nuggets are Leading Materials and they are the real meat of your speech or presentation.

Once you’ve created a systematic approach to speech or presentation development you can begin to create content for each element.