Strategies for Negotiating in Times of Crisis

By RED BEAR June 13, 2024 | 8 min read

The dynamics of negotiation can shift dramatically in the face of a crisis. Whether it's a global pandemic like COVID-19, supply chain disruptions, or natural disasters, these situations demand unique approaches to secure successful outcomes.

Navigating through these turbulent times requires a blend of foundational negotiation principles and adaptability to the evolving landscape.

The Importance of Proactive Planning and Relationship Building for Negotiators

Before exploring crisis negotiation strategies, it's crucial to understand the importance of proactive planning and building relationships with clients and suppliers. As RED BEAR’s Mike Slomke puts it, "Strong supplier relationships return the most value. A good supplier relationship is built not on what happens when things are going well but on what happens when things go wrong. Namely, can you work through issues productively?"

Investing time and effort into building strong relationships with clients, suppliers, and partners before a crisis occurs can pay dividends when challenges arise. Established trust and open communication channels can facilitate more productive negotiations and collaborative problem-solving.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Successful Negotiation

While crises may require adapting your approach, the fundamental principles of successful negotiation remain relevant. RED BEAR emphasizes the following key principles:

Position Your Product Advantageously

Emphasize the unique benefits and relevance of your product or service in the current crisis situation. Highlight how it can address the heightened needs and challenges faced by your customers or suppliers.

Set High Targets

Maintain ambitious yet realistic goals to drive favorable negotiation outcomes. High targets can motivate both parties to explore creative solutions and reach mutually beneficial agreements that exceed initial expectations.

Manage Information Skillfully

Share and withhold information strategically to strengthen your negotiation position. Leverage insights about market trends, competitor landscapes, and customer needs to influence perceptions and build trust.

Know Your Power

Recognize your leverage points in the negotiation, like the strength of your position, the negotiation skills you bring to the table, and the other party's priorities and constraints. Leverage your strengths while mitigating weaknesses to achieve optimal outcomes.

Satisfy Customer Needs Over Wants

Focus on identifying and meeting the essential needs heightened by the crisis rather than just catering to wants. By prioritizing value creation and problem-solving, you can align your offerings with what matters most to the customer, fostering trust and laying the foundation for long-term partnerships.

Concede According to Plan

Make concessions thoughtfully and strategically—based on trade-offs, priorities, and long-term objectives. Avoid impulsive concessions that may undermine your position or erode value unnecessarily.


Adapting Sales Negotiation Strategies During Crises

In times of crisis, the ability to adapt in real-time is vital. While planning is essential, so is the flexibility to pivot based on new information or changes in the crisis landscape.

Real-Time Adaptation and Flexibility

Being adaptable means being prepared to change your approach as circumstances evolve. 

Strategies for real-time adaptation include:

  • Regularly reassessing your goals, priorities, and alternatives as the situation evolves.
  • Remaining open to creative solutions and unconventional approaches.
  • Leveraging RED BEAR's negotiation behaviors to navigate dynamic situations effectively.

RED BEAR's Negotiation Behaviors

RED BEAR’s negotiation behaviors offer a structured strategy that can be adapted during crises:

  • Make Demands: Assert your requirements confidently but reasonably.
  • Ask Open Questions: Encourage dialogue and uncover underlying concerns and needs.
  • Test and Summarize: Confirm understanding and clarify points to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Propose Conditionality: Frame agreements as conditional on certain terms being met.
  • Make Trades: Offer and request valuable exchanges to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Building Trust in Crisis Situations

Trust is critical in successful negotiations, and even more so during crises. Strategies for building trust in these situations include:

  • Emphasizing transparency and reliability in your communication and actions.
  • Demonstrating empathy and understanding of the challenges faced by your clients or suppliers.
  • Following through on commitments and being responsive to concerns or issues that arise.


Procurement Negotiation Strategies in Difficult Times

Procurement negotiations during crises present unique challenges.

Understanding Supplier Challenges

Acknowledging the difficulties suppliers face during crises is the first step toward building stronger partnerships. Showing support and flexibility can lead to better cooperation and mutual benefits.

"Good supplier relationships can get you more than your fair share of attention, prioritization, and service during difficult supply chain conditions. If you have a good relationship with the person who makes that decision, you can both help each other during tough times. Good supplier relationships can set you up for a better response when the unexpected happens."

- Mike Slomke, RED BEAR Negotiation

Embracing Collaborative Approaches

Effective procurement negotiation strategies during crises often involve collaboration from both sides (more on this below). Collaborative approaches can include:

  • Joint Problem-Solving: Working together with suppliers to find solutions to mutual challenges, leveraging each party's expertise and resources.
  • Long-Term Relationship Building: Focusing on sustaining partnerships beyond the immediate crisis, recognizing the value of reliable and trustworthy suppliers in the long run.

Balancing Competitive, Collaborative, and Creative Dimensions of Negotiation

Leaning too heavily on traditional competitive negotiation tactics often fails, both in “normal times” and in times of crisis. At RED BEAR, we emphasize the importance of balancing these dimensions—this approach ensures you grow your company profitably while preserving and enhancing relationships, even in the face of excessive or unrealistic demands. Embracing collaboration and creativity along with the competitive dimension is essential for achieving better outcomes and building trust with suppliers and clients.

RED BEAR’s Approach to Building Trust

Establishing credibility and reliability is a cornerstone of successful negotiation. Practical steps to foster trust and cooperation include:

Learn to Negotiate Under Any Circumstance with RED BEAR

Effective negotiation strategies during crises involve a blend of fundamental principles and adaptability. By planning ahead, building strong relationships, and applying strategic negotiation behaviors, you can successfully navigate challenging times. RED BEAR’s training programs equip your team with the skills needed to excel in negotiations under any circumstance.

Invest in RED BEAR’s negotiation training to unlock greater potential and drive your business to success. Reach out today to learn more about how our programs can enhance your negotiation capabilities.

Fill out our contact form and we will be back to you in no later than one business day.



Successful negotiations are rarely the result of chance or innate talent. They are, more often than not, the product of meticulous preparation and strategic planning.
As the summer heats up, don’t let your sales and procurement negotiation training melt away. Now is the perfect time to sharpen your skills with some insightful summer reads.

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