4 Pandemic Negotiation Lessons

Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute


I was shocked and dismayed a year ago when millions of us were grounded and effectively sentenced to house arrest as the world confronted the pandemic that upended many of our lives and livelihoods. Since then, we have all personally and professionally adapted in myriad ways - some good and some bad.


As we now appear to see the end in sight, I thought I would reflect on what negotiation lessons this pandemic year has taught us. Here are four.


1. Poor Planning has devastating impacts

Despite multiple warnings of the dangers of future global pandemics and the experience of fighting earlier ones, the lack of planning and stockpiling of critical supplies was woefully inadequate and inexcusable.

Inadequate planning also bedevils the vast majority of individuals and businesses preparing for significant negotiations. How? They prepare by focusing almost exclusively on the substantive issues on the table and give relatively short shrift to the crucial process-oriented strategic elements (what I call the Five Golden Rules of Negotiation).

Of course, the failure to effectively plan for a major pandemic cost thousands of lives. The stakes are much lower for almost all negotiations. But they are still significant. And the lack of strategic negotiation planning carries a substantial cost for everyone involved.

2. Major changes bring opportunities

I must admit - last March got me down. I am an optimist. But it was tough when my in-person training programs came to a screeching halt with no end in sight.


But then I - and millions of other business owners and workers - picked ourselves up and started exploring the new opportunities that arose due to the changed circumstances. Time to pivot!


In my case, I developed three new online programs and modified our in-person courses to deliver virtually. We also accelerated the roll out of an asynchronous professionally-produced 7-hour e-learning course focused in part on salary negotiations that will launch shortly (I know - blatant self-interest here! Email me if you want to beta test it for 50% off.)

Front-line negotiators must also pivot when circumstances radically change in the midst of a deal. It happens. How you address it may be the difference between closing the deal and walking away empty-handed.


So, don’t despair when this happens. Explore new opportunities. Consider different ways to get the deal done. Bring your creativity and flexibility and overcome those obstacles. Some roads may abruptly end. But others may open up.

The Biden Administration recently brokered the negotiation for Merck to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine - despite the two being huge competitors. It was a unique deal driven by unique circumstances that seems to have satisfied all the parties’ interests.


3. Personal and professional relationships increase in importance

The pandemic brought home to millions the true value of our personal and professional relationships. It’s easy to take these for granted. Don’t. In the last year, many have relied on long-standing clients and friends to step up and help in many different ways.


In your negotiations, you can recognize the true value of your relationship with your counterpart AND still aggressively satisfy your interests. This can be challenging. But it’s crucial. Relationships can powerfully pay off when you really need them.


4. Invest in yourself and never stop learning

This past year has afforded me the opportunity to read more books and learn and improve more than in many previous years - both personally and professionally.


I hope you also spent time investing in yourself and improving your skills, both on the negotiation front and otherwise. Lifelong learning, right?


Keep it up! The most successful negotiators are always looking for that new strategy or tactic to give them the edge in their next negotiation.


Latz's Lesson: This past pandemic year was horrific on almost all fronts. But we should reflect, learn and improve even in these circumstances.


P.S. I can't wait for you to see the new e-learning course on negotiation we've produced. We'll be sharing more information about it in upcoming emails so watch for that. If you can't wait, email me to beta test it for 50% off.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research. He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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