As you prepare to write this week’s discussion post, first review the article: How to Neutralise Aggressive Negotiators Tactics.
Then, fill out the Negotiation Gambits Chart Word. Include the following information:
Identify two potential distributive negotiating gambits that Sharon Slade should consider to advance her agenda.
Identify two negotiating tactics that she should avoid during the negotiating session.
Identify specific gambits that would be the most appropriate for advancing your agenda in the negotiation.
How to Neutralise Aggressive Negotiators Tactics
by Calum Coburn
Beat aggression through managing the manipulative negotiation tactics of the other party by asking the right questions.
Mandated Authority Introduction
Subsequent to the 1980’s, a lot of companies had a tendency to concentrate their negotiation training on aggressive tactics. Although the application of these tactics will often yield a short term result, we don’t support using them in a professional business context. The reason we don’t support their usage is because of both the long term damage that they will impact on your business relationships, and the dubious ethics of employing these manipulative tactics. Once you fully comprehend the Principled Negotiation Model, then the need to achieve a small short term advantage will become unnecessary. These tactics were conceived to wrest value from the other side without providing any contributing value in return. They are considered ‘Win-Lose’ by nature.
It is regrettable that you will frequently have to negotiate with others who apply these tactics aggressiveagainst you. It is vital to notify the counterparty that you possess the knowledge and skills to neutralise their effect with appropriate counters.
The counters you will read about here have one thing in common. They separate the tactic from the person. So although you might be acting and sometimes judging the tactics employed, at no time do we recommend you lay blame on the aggressive person or attribute the tactic to the person’s identity. We are not our tactics. Employing these tactics doesn’t automatically make a negotiator a manipulator or aggressor. So we must make a distinction between a negotiator using manipulative tactics, versus a negotiator being manipulative because they are using these tactics. A negotiator will either frequently be acting out of habit without having any regard to their actions. There are other occasions when what we perceive as a tactic, may actually be something completely different.
You would not dare to use one of these tactics on a friend or family member would you? Perhaps your best insurance policy to counter these tactics is to devote the time by befriending your counterparty before the negotiations proper begin. Relationship skills used in a neutral social setting could be a huge bonus later at the negotiation table.
There are many different tactics and gambits in negotiation. We cover the main areas you will come across and offer the most effective counters we have found.
This is a very controversial area that raises the question: ‘How can you know whether the other party is being totally honest when disclosing their interests?’ Might they be ‘loading the dice’ in their favour by embedding extra false interests into their agenda? So you hear about 13 interests, when in actuality they only have 10?
Here are two examples of how this can create a win-lose in their favour. The first danger occurs when you make an exchange on an invalid interest of theirs, and it is only later when they drop this exchange from the agreement. The result is that this leaves you with an unmet interest of yours, and them with an agreement that meets all of their interests. The second danger arises when the other party agrees to ‘forget’ about their fabricated interests if you will forget about your real interests.
There are several methods of handling this deceitful tactic. Your being thorough may be enough. So remember to get them to explain their motivation behind each interest by asking how each interest helps them. Then work together in ranking their interests. If you still feel dubious, trust your hunches and inquire further. Research more widely and if necessary, withdraw and regroup.
Your best method of protecting yourself occurs from a combination of thorough preparation so you are able to predict and then understand what they should and will be asking for. Review their expressed interests against your expectations. Then expand your interpersonal perceptions to notice when the other party is being deceitful. There are always indicators and you are strongly advised to sharpen your senses. We recommend your training and gaining practice in the following areas: NLP, Body Language, Behavioural Psychology and Linguistics.
If you are acting as a buyer, you will hear the seller ask for a lot more than you expected. If you are acting as a seller, the buyer will offer you much less than you expected. The aim is to lower your expectations and thereby obtain a concession without having to give one in return. The danger is that you will be miffed and enraged, refusing to have any further dealings with the other party.
It’s vital to note that the other party’s culture may ordain this tactic as a normal practice. A German or American trading in China will grow accustomed to excessive proposals. If the culture in which you must operate dictates excessive opening offers, then we suggest that you to blend in and take advice on how to play by local rules.
To summarize: in western countries, separate the individual from their behaviour or tactic. If you are surprised, show your surprise and permit yourself to laugh. This can diffuse the situation and initiate an agreement. We don’t generally recommend an unwarranted counter proposal. Let the other side know that their expectations need to be adjusted, and refer to other deals as precedents to persuade them by how much.
The Negotiation Nibble
Just when you believe you have fully agreed and are about to ink the contract, they ask “Transportation and insurance is included, isn’t it?” There is a powerful urge to make this final concession for the sake of signing the deal. This urge must be resisted. The Trading principle of using an If-Then should be employed:
“In contracts where we pay for transportation and insurance, we add an extra 3% to the price. So yes, if you are willing to pay the extra 3%, then we will cover these two items.”
We generally suggest you ask for the reason for the interest behind this newly raised request. If it was left out earlier by mistake, then perhaps there is an opportunity to meet this need in some other creative manner that meets both parties’ needs. A terrific way to thwart nibbling and other disagreeable surprises is by being explicit and thorough in specifying precisely what is included and excluded in the deal.
Buyers can design their perfect deal through shopping around and by obtaining many bids before they first approach you. They may offer you a proposal that fully meets their interests on price and discount structures, quality, service, timescales etc. They may frequently tell you that “this is what the competition is offering us, so you’ll need to at least match it!” In actuality they would have “cherry picked” the most desirable offerings from each of your competition’s proposals.
By asking the identities of these potential competitors, you are better able to satisfy your own interests. Simply ask them who offered this dream deal, and whether this company actually did offer them an identical deal to the one you have to beat. If it seems too good to be true you may be right! Take the time to do your own market research. Examine the standard conditions and current deals of these named competitors. If at all possible, speak directly with your competition.
Draw the other sides’ attention to the notion of trading and mutual concession making. Explain that if the deal is to be worth your while you will need to obtain something in return for altering your offer in favour of their cherry picked deal. It could be that you will be the one who is challenged with the task of bringing this buyer’s expectations back down to earth, and perhaps you will win the deal in so doing.
Physical responses such as suddenly gasping for air and visible expressions of astonishment and alarm are common examples of flinching. What makes the flinch so perilous is that it happens in an instant, and most are not consciously aware of it. Seeing a shocked expression is far more credible as compared with hearing someone saying “I’m shocked.” To effectively combat a flinch whilst negotiating, you must consciously take notice of what is occurring. Then think about whether they sincerely expected something else, or if they are merely playing a role to lower your expectations. Like most other tactics, if you have observed the tactic, you are unlikely to be manipulated by it and are already in the process of dealing with it.
Since a flinch is in essence a disappointment on their side, take the time to ask “I notice you looked surprised, what were you expecting?” This places you in a position to discuss their unrealistic expectation, rather than your unrealistic terms.
Good Cop – Bad Cop
No matter how often we watch these antics in old and new movies alike, many negotiators often don’t see when these scenarios occur in front of their very eyes. You will be facing two or more negotiators; one is aggressively demanding concessions whilst the other is (by comparison!) more sensible. Often the hot headed bad cop doesn’t have to be there at all. The other party will make references to their aggressive boss or other team members’ demands for your concessions.
It is absolutely vital that you to notice what is transpiring, and remember that despite appearances, the ‘good cop’ is not on your side. Often the dynamics can be altered by your calling them on their behaviour by saying “You know what this reminds me of? A police interrogation scene from an old movie with that old good cop / bad cop routine. Now I know you guys wouldn’t intentionally be doing that routine on me, so let’s get back to the reason why came together today.”
Alternatively you could concentrate all your efforts on the bad cop, and ignore the good cop. Since it is the bad cop you have to please, it should be her/his interests that need to be fully ascertained.
Mandated Authority comes in two main forms:
The other party may only negotiate on particular items, whilst others remained fixed by a higher authority. Sometimes called ‘Limited Authority’.
Final approval can only be given by a higher authority.
First ask the other party who in their company makes the final decision to buy. You may need to probe further to uncover the other decision makers and line of authority. If you neglect to enquire fully at this stage may mean that negotiation time and energy have been wasted by the higher authority’s torpedo “No”.
You don’t actually need to start negotiations with the decision maker. It is useful to develop a relationship with the lower level authority person with whom you are negotiating, as they exert a great deal of sway in your favour. When you determine that you do need to speak with a higher level authority, make clear that you will need to talk with them at some stage.
When faced with off the table items discussed in 1 above, don’t accept these at face value. If you do, the list will grow and you will have achieved nothing in exchange for these concessions. Discover the interests that lie behind those items that are deemed as non-negotiable.
Having a mandated authority from whom to secure final approval is most useful in circumstances of high risk and in new and unfamiliar markets.
The law of supply and demand comes can appear in many guises, a very subtle form of aggression. Similar to ‘Cherry Picking’ you may hear that your competitor proposed the same deal for a lower price. You may be informed that unless you meet their price the contract will have to go out for bids. More subtle might include subtle insinuations that relate to conversation or the products of your competitors. Perhaps you will observe a competitor’s product catalogue on their desk with post-it notes peeking out from several pages.
Time and again you will be faced with a generalisation of “Everyone else is providing this service as standard”. Of course you will want to contest this generalisation immediately, lest it sticks and they start believing their own claim. Identify who exactly they have spoken with, and then proceed to compare your offering to the other party in detail. Don’t take their word for it; perform your own research if you don’t already know what your competition is offering.
First establish precisely how similar your competitors’ offering really is. Quality, volume, service, delivery, time-scales and payment terms need to match to make for a meaningful price comparison. Very seldom will your offering be totally dissimilar from the competition. Ideally your meticulous preparation prior to negotiating would have armed you with information on your competitor’s value proposition. Work to distinguish your proposal or offer so as not to be commoditised and beaten down on price.
Deadlines coerce parties into movement through making choices. Deadlines may be a result of circumstance (return flight departure time approaching), or have a real consequence (project grinds to a halt without a person or a product), or they may merely be a tactic to force your hand and deny you adequate preparation time.
Ask for consequences – “What will happen if we don’t meet your deadline?” Perhaps through working together you can open their eyes to alternatives that relieve the pressure from the seemingly unmovable deadline.
Limits vary from money, to time (deadlines as mentioned above), to capacity, to personnel and more. The most feared to a sales person is limited money. “We love you, your product and organisation – we just can’t afford to pay more than X.”
Perhaps you can deliver within their stated limit, but always apply the trading principle and receive something back for making this concession. “If I sell at X, then you will need to forgo your after sales support and reduce warranty to 1 year.”
We support using advanced ‘sleight of mouth’ techniques to refocus the conversation onto creating value, rather than the notion of a fixed pie. Experience teaches that when the risk of losing a valuable product or service is fully understood, then the limiting restrictions are brought into proper perspective. “Yes we do need to work to your budget. Let’s also remember that we are talking about saving your company 2000 hours per year here, worth which is worth X2 discounted over 10 years. So the real cost isn’t X, it’s the risk of not saving X2.”
It’s important to be able to discern between if your counterparty is using a limit as part of their arsenal of negotiating tactics, or if they are under a real constraint. A skilled question based approach is best.
Take it or Leave it
This tactic is confrontational and sometimes even belligerent. Such open forms of aggression are best not met with equal force. Concentrate on the interest behind the demand, and then work together with the other party to generate options that allow the interest to be met in some other way.
“The workers won’t accept less than a 2% increase in salary, take it or leave it!” can be met with “I understand the workers require 2% more in salary, so please help me to understand what they will be doing with 2% more?” It could well be that this money would go towards their retirement plans. If so, the company could offer to raise the pension contributions to satisfy the desired security levels. Until you know why they want a 2% rise, you’re not in any position to create alternatives.
If you suspect a bluff, one good way to expose the bluff is to inquire “If we were to agree to your demand, then would you be prepared to sign the contract here and now?” If you don’t pose this question, you run the risk of making a concession only to face another demand. Often you will flush out more of their interests through asking this question.
Similar is “You are going to have to do better than that!” Again, we suggest you ask them “How much better, and if we do, will you be willing to sign here and now?” You are not committing yourself, but merely exposing their intentions. Another rejoinder is to use the trading principle: “If we reduce your price, then we need you to increase your order.”
Power of Print and Policies
We tend to give the written word and company policies more weight and credibility than the spoken word and requests. For this reason we recommend you list your prices in writing rather than discuss them verbally. Written words are seen in a light of enhanced legitimacy, and are less often challenged.
If presented with a price or company policy, ask who originally conceived the price or policy, and what interests they were intended to serve. They may not have considered this policy before, and may grasp that it is either obsolete or does not apply.
If provided with a list of client company names, choose a couple of companies and ask for details of what work they performed, when, what the results were, whether they have testimonies to show.
You will hear the other side framing their request as being the ‘fair’ or ‘right’ way. In so doing, by disagreeing with their proposal, you run the risk of being labelled as ‘unfair’ or ‘wrong’!
“If we agree to pay in 30 days, then it’s only fair that you let us have our standard 5% discount”. “Let’s be equitable and share the costs on this.” “If I take this deal back to my boss, he will chew my ear off! Can you please help me out just a little?”
Remind the other party that you earned your trusted position through trading in negotiations. So if you make this concession for them, you must receive a concession in return. If there are interests of yours that are not fully met, now is the time to discuss them. “If I give you a discount of 5%, then I need you to add product group Y to this order.”
The moral appeal could conceal an interest that has yet to be fully met. In the third example you could ask “So what interests would your boss want met, can you rank them?”
Also known as ‘Name Dropping’. They may bring up having done business with a VIP or a venerated company. Alternatively they may exhibit a picture in their office of themselves shaking hands with great leaders like Nelson Mandela. The peril lies in the human tendency of wanting to conduct business with individuals who are well connected.
Most important is to distinguish what is happening and not permit yourself to be influenced or swayed to treat this person any differently than you would have without this information. It’s all to often no more than a thinly guised negotiating tactic.
If you believe they are stretching the truth, ask them what they performed with the person or company. Appear interested and ask for details. If they cite a company ask for the name and position of the person they dealt with. If they become vague or change the topic you can draw your own conclusions.
The default tactic tests your thoroughness and diligence. You are given a benefit such as an extra service or more product, along with a contractual term or note stipulating that they presume these terms are to your liking. The onus falls upon you to contact the other party and explain that you did not ask for these additional products or services. If you are lazy and don’t read all communication, or if you don’t take action, you will be setting a precedent of implied agreement that is hard to escape from further down the line. Many feel taken advantage of and become aggressive as a result. We would again suggest that aggression is not the best route when negotiating against counterparties employing such tactics.
It is best to be firm when replying to a default tactic. Make the other party aware that you know the intention behind the products, and that you would value them if they personally deleted these variations from the agreement .
Negotiation Deliberate Mistake
This tactic plays on your ethics or lack thereof. This tactic comes down to the ethics of your counterparty, and must therefore be aggressively guarded against when you suspect their moral standing or cultural preferences. You may be tempted with a contract or offering that is clearly to your advantage – contrary to your discussions. The risk lies in you’re eagerly signing before the other party realises their error or omission, only to have this matter brought to your notice and corrected later on. We suggest you point out the slip-up or omission as soon as you notice it. This tactic, as with the others, has a way of boomeranging and will catch up with you in the medium to longer term.
Negotiation Planted Information
It is somehow human nature to trust what we have learned about the other party because of what they have said about themselves. It is chiefly for this reason that (friendly) mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are often only announced shortly before being agreed upon by the parties involved. The danger exists when the press publishes an unfounded and speculative article, thereby shooting holes in the trust that has been steadily building between companies and their shareholders. There are many case histories that have recorded how one side ‘leaked’ information to the press in order to slant the M&A negotiation in their favour.
As far as is practical, research the information that is available, and withstand reacting in the moment. If you have a good relationship with the other party, you can save a lot of time by sharing the information with them, face to face whilst negotiating, and asking for the truth behind it. If they confirm the rumour to be true, ask for their sources.
Withdrawal comes in two main forms:
Withdrawal of a previously agreed term or tentative agreement.
Withdrawal from the negotiations altogether.
With the first, the other party will request that you claw back their side of an already agreed tentative agreement. Be cautious by learning how circumstances have changed to warrant their changed need. Review your notes to see what you had promised to them, and remind them that you too will need to withdraw this item in return. Find out what interests they are looking to satisfy, and seek to create new options by negotiating creatively together. Corporate negotiations are characteristically highly complex – necessitating parties to sense when changes in circumstances and negotiating parties demand a revisit.
You will need to judge as to whether the second is a tactic or an actual withdrawal. Listen very carefully to their wording to identify whether they are giving you a conditional withdrawal.”We are going to have to break off discussions with your insistence on a 50% share in this venture!” Here you are given the 50% share condition/demand to overcome, without knowing their underlying interest. Start by reiterating those areas you know that you both agreed upon. Your overarching reason for meeting, your sharing interests, and the areas agreed so far. Once you are both back in an agreement frame, ask them why they don’t want you to have a 50% share. It may be that in China joint ventures are controlled by the government. Perhaps you can appoint the CEO whilst they appoint the Chairperson, and your decision making procedures permit you to veto any proposals despite their 51% share. They get the public perception of control, you get equal say.