BUYER POWER #1 – TIME

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“Territory I can recover. Time, never.”

— Napoleon Bonaparte

During the Paris peace negotiation between the United States and the Northern Vietnamese, Ho Chi Min instructed his team of delegates to delay the negotiation as long as possible. He knew that the scales of power were out of balance in the favor of the Americans who had the firepower, manpower and economic power to ultimately crush him. But, with the political turmoil at home, they did not have time. And Ho Chi Min knew that. Per his wishes, the North Vietnamese delegates squeezed every last drop of TIME out of the Americans, at one point arguing about the size and shape of the table they were to sit at… for 9 months. The delegates cleverly manipulated the Americans into investing more time and effort than the North Vietnamese. Ho Chi Min dominated the negotiations, and the Americans ability to effectively negotiate was severely diminished.

Negotiation is about maneuvering for power.

– Robert Green

When buyers leverage seller resources by having them invest time, money, and effort into the sale, the buyer exercises the power of TIME. Once sellers invest significant amounts of time and effort into the process, buyers have the power to leverage that TIME against the seller. Buyers persuade sellers to commit enough TIME into the sale that it becomes difficult for sellers to walk away. When sellers invest significant amounts of TIME, they lose “walk away” power. The seller has so much vested in the project that when it comes time to negotiate, he is at a severe negotiating disadvantage and is vulnerable to price demands and negotiated discounts. In other words, the power scale is out of balance in favor of the buyer. The power of time is one that sellers feel in their gut and is most commonly used by not just buyers, but by the best negotiators in history.

It is important to note that power is not always leveraged strategically or deliberately. Power can be exercised intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously. In the end, it doesn’t matter why power is exercised. It only matters how. At the peak of a sellers TIME, every concession and demand coming from the buyer is worth it to the seller, who feels that walking away from the sale is impossible after committing so much to it. This feeling of insecurity is driven by power instability in the favor of the buyer.

As a seller, it is imperative that you work to balance the amount of TIME invested. If you are the only one investing TIME, you have lost. Be as sturdy as the laws of physics, demand equal and opposite reactions from your customers. Require a balance in the scales of power. It will bring you more success and better relationships with your clients.