How Can You Avoid Negotiating in Circles?

We had been in negotiations with the seller, Martin, and his team all day and despite diverging perspectives on a few issues we had managed to nail down several important aspects of the agreement involving intellectual property and key employee contracts.

The next afternoon when we resumed negotiations, Martin brought up the employee contracts again as if we had never discussed the issue. We were a bit puzzled because we had already negotiated this point and arrived at an agreement. Why was Martin bringing it up again?

Does this situation sound familiar where the other side starts bringing up issues you’ve already agreed upon? Negotiations can be complicated and heated, so when you finally arrive at an agreement, the last thing you want to do is go back to square one. Here’s one simple tactic we’ve found that works very well to avoid negotiating in circles: Write everything down.

Coming out of every negotiation discussion have a written short list that details the specific items both sides agreed to. It’s also helpful to list the items that the seller agreed to work on and the items that you agreed to work on so that when you resume discussions you can be more productive.

You don’t need reams of data or pages and pages of notes. A concise summary or even bullet points are fine. Your goal is to ensure there is no ambiguity and that everyone is on the same page moving forward so you can reach an agreement on the acquisition.

This is not a mind-blowing tactic, but it’s shocking how often people (on both sides of the acquisition) get amnesia when it comes to negotiations. By writing everything down you can easily refresh everyone’s memories, avoid frustration, and use your time productively.

Photo credit Maryland GovPics via Flickr CC BY 2.0