Unreasonable time expectations or well-intentioned but unachievable deadlines are a fact of business life. As a two-person operation at Kansas City Infobank, we constantly battled the swings between trying to sell projects and then having too many to be able to meet every deadline we faced. This imbalance created the need to strategically negotiate project timing expectations with clients.

I learned you’ll always have a better shot at successfully negotiating more advantageous deadlines if your strategy is to present value trade-offs that go beyond simply asking for more time. Instead, talk about what more you can deliver with more time.

Step one is figuring out what you can deliver within the initial time expectation:

  • How complete can you be?
  • Are there critical elements you won't get completed?
  • What impact might this gap have on the project outcome or business relationship?

Just as importantly though, understand and communicate other valuable elements you could deliver with an extended timeframe. Among the possibilities:

  • Greater completeness
  • Clearer organization of the information
  • Greater detail
  • Better summarization
  • Richer creativity or innovation
  • Deeper strategic insights

Your client may still need to stick with the original deadline, but presenting a valuable strategic alternative creates a much better likelihood of successfully negotiating for more time. - Mike Brown