Yup, we’ve all been there — having to deal with a bad deal. Depending on how bad, it could lead to sleepless nights, an overindulgence in Ben & Jerry’s, a lot of retail therapy . . . or all of the above. All joking aside, bad deals are hard to live with. How long you live with them is up to you, because there are ways that you can turn bad deals into good ones.
Rarely do we intend to agree to a bad deal. More often than not, the bad deal you find yourself in started out as a good one — one you happily agreed to. Then, somewhere along the way, something happened that took you down a regrettable path. Whether it was caused by changed circumstances, new information coming to light, or unanticipated consequences of how the agreement played out, bad deals happen. And when they do, you need to take action to expedite your relief.
There are a variety of things that you can do to get relief from a bad deal. Here are a few of them . . .
Understand why it’s a bad deal. As simple as this sounds, you need to understand why a deal is bad before you can fix it. If you don’t understand the root causes of the bad deal, your next deal is unlikely to be any better. Ask yourself, “How did we get here?” “What could we have done differently?” “What do I know now that I didn’t know then?”
Understand what constitutes a good deal. Many negotiators know only that a deal is bad, while not fully understanding what would make it better. Define what a good deal would look like. This will give you a place to work toward. There may be a temptation to steer the deal lopsidedly in your favor. Just be aware that if you do, you run the risk of being in this situation again as the other side attempts to course-correct.
Know your walk-away point. In any negotiation, it’s important to know your walk-away point. In this case, it’s even more so. You need to know which is better — remaining in the bad deal or walking away. If you can’t change the current bad deal, walking away may be the better option.
Examine your leverage. When we get stuck, we assume there’s nothing that we can do. At this juncture, be sure to take a step back and explore what you can do for them (carrot) or what you can do to them (stick). This will better help you to understand the leverage you have.
Take control. As Newton’s First Law of Motion makes clear, “Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.” You take control by applying the force of your leverage. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish and the leverage you have available, take control by making a proposal that utilizes your leverage. Either offer the carrot or the stick in exchange for your chosen redirection.
Changing a bad deal isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming. It’s stressful. It can even be painful. But it can be done. Whatever you do, keep in mind what made the deal bad to begin with and make sure that you mitigate those factors moving forward. Otherwise, another bad deal may be in your future.