Thus it sometimes seems easiest to play it safe with cautious deals involving few tradeoffs, few concessions, and little information sharing between parties.
The VP eventually agreed to put her in touch with the Impress representative.
After a number of meetings and a lot of negotiation, Impress agreed to re-sign with RLX, and Kristen saved her firm more than $25 million in annual revenues. She realized that to win back the account, she had to win back their trust—and fast.
So before the first meeting took place, she took several critical steps: While the RLX-Impress negotiation was particularly tricky to get off the ground, establishing trust is critical to achieving success in any negotiation, because all negotiations involve some level of risk.
Negotiators usually say that they're prepared to bargain in good faith, yet talks sometimes collapse because each side lacks trust in the other's competence and good intentions.
One party might want to make a concession or share sensitive information in the hope of inspiring disclosures and compromises in return, but there's always a risk that the other side will refuse to budge, or even worse, exploit the information to their own advantage.
Trust is particularly elusive in high-stress, high-stakes conditions, as when you're negotiating with strangers, facing deadlines, coping with differences in power and status, or hammering out unenforceable contracts.
Trust may develop naturally over time, but negotiators rarely have the luxury of letting nature take its course.
What began as a misunderstanding about specifications and deadlines between a manager at RLX, a software development firm, and a manager at Impress, one of its clients, had escalated into a conflict charged with growing mistrust.
Both RLX and Impress had money to lose if the partnership ended, but in the heat of conflict this became a secondary concern.
Just two weeks after the first flare-up, Impress announced that it would be taking its business elsewhere.
Kristen worked in a division of RLX that had few dealings with Impress, but she nevertheless approached her manager, who was also the VP of the division that had lost the account, to ask if she could try to win it back.