Common Negotiating Tactics

 

 

Here is a list of 25 common tactics I’ve encountered and even used over my career.  I absolutely love to hear stories about tactics, so if you have a good story about a tactic that was used on you or by you, drop me a comment or link.

  1. Exploding Offers (artificial deadlines) – an exploding offer contains an extremely tight deadline creating pressure on the other party to conclude quickly.  The purpose of the exploding offer is to limit the time the other party has to consider alternatives.
  2. Russian Front – Presented with 2 options, A and B, one worse than the other.  Designed to pressure you into choosing the lesser of two evils.  Remember two wrongs don’t make it right, attach your own considerations as condition of acceptance.
  3. Good Cop Bad Cop – based on law enforcement interrogation techniques.  One party opens with a tough position often accompanied by threats, arrogant behavior, and unwillingness to consider anything else (parental).  After leaving the room, a second negotiator attempts to secure major concessions before the return of the first Bad Cop.  Sometimes disguised and used only when certain issues are brought up or certain thresholds are crossed.
  4. Highball / Lowball – when your extreme opener is beyond the realm of realistic outcomes.  The idea is to cause the other party to reconsider their own opening position and move closer towards their breaking point.  Danger is the increased risk of deadlock before the negotiation even begin, crossing the “Piss Off” point.
  5. Bogey ­– presenting a relatively minor issue as one of huge importance.  Later during the negotiation, the bogey will be conceded for major concessions on issues that are of real importance.  Danger is the other party may actually structure proposals to give you the bogey or worse yet, you may lose credibility when conceding on the bogey.
  6. The Nibble – after considerable time has elapsed during a negotiation and a level of commitment has been reached, an issue not previously discussed is used as a way to close the deal…  “And one last thing”.  Example – just before agreeing to purchase a new car the buyer says – “Ok I’ll agree provided you throw in the extended warranty for free”.
  7. The Chicken – Combining a huge bluff with a threat of action – Strike or Lock out etc.  This high risk tactic increases the probability of deadlock, and if the bluff is called and the threat is not carried out, both credibility and power are lost.
  8. Intimidation, The Bully – Using either actual physical threat or implied physical threat to intimidate the other party into concessions they would not otherwise agree.  Sometimes emotional intimidation is used (anger, disbelief, crying, etc.).
  9. Snow Job – When negotiators overwhelm the other side with facts, demands and figures.  The other side has difficulty determining which are real, which are important, and which are distractions.  Lawyers and Governments often employ this tactic.
  10. Boulwareism – Name comes from Leo Boulware, Former VP for Labor Relations at General Electric.  Boulware despised traditional negotiation methods and created the “Best-offer-first” or “take-it-or-leave-it” ultimatum.  Difficulty is this type of negotiating increases the probability of deadlock because of the decreased satisfaction on the receiving end of such a tactic.
  11. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing – some negotiators try to lull the other side into a false sense of security by praising their opponent’s skill and downplaying their own abilities only to continually request further concessions.  They will praise the other parties offer as reasonable and fair, but often claim they are not authorized to accept such and offer, if only it could be improved marginally in several areas.
  12. Higher Authority – Negotiator’s will purposefully dis-empower themselves from making decisions.  I’m not authorized to agree at that level.  I’ll need to review this with the CFO/Manager/Director etc.
  13. Defense by Committee – After a deal has been concluded one side will insist that it still needs to be ratified by some steering or executive committee.  Low and behold after the committee hearing, several concessions are required for approval.  This may continue for several iterations each time nibbling concessions.
  14. The Mock Threat – indicating that such a position will have monumental consequences on ALL business between the 2 companies and not just the matter at hand.  “We will have to do a line review or product rationalization etc.”  Often combined with higher authority.  “it’s not me, it’s from Corporate”.
  15. Yes equals No – agree to a ridiculous proposal by attaching equally ridiculous demands as condition of acceptance.  Can be effective countering the Russian Front tactic.
  16. Off the Record – using informal discussions to test and gauge potential responses to positions.  Testing the waters.  Sometimes informal discussions are necessary when an impasse has been reached.
  17. Personal Favor – Be careful about using the personal favor, because one good turn deserves another.  If you request a favor you now owe someone a favor in return.
  18. The Auction or Dutch Auction – designed to tap into the competitive nature of 2 or more individuals pitted against each other, causing them to lose sight of the actual value of the item being auctioned.
  19. Deliberate misunderstanding – using intransigence to buy time.  “Can you take me through that proposal again”, usually followed with very specific questions about some of the issues.  “I’m having a hard time following you”, “I’m not sure I understand”.
  20. Incorrect Summary – When one side while summarizing what has been agreed will purposefully add or change an issue in an attempt to slide it by the other side.  Will cause a deterioration of the climate and loss of credibility.
  21. Bait and Switch – When the item you where negotiating for seems to be different then what you thought you were negotiating for.  Car dealers may claim, “Oh look, the serial number is for the black jeep and not the green one.  My manager can’t agree to this price on the green jeep, it has all these extra options, if you are able to take the black one we have a deal”.
  22. Sow the Seed – Used by opening extreme and insisting the other party think about the offer before they respond.  Allowing the other party to go through the six stages of acceptance, minimizing the impact of the extreme offer by combining it with time to think about the proposal.
  23. Denied Access – used to increase the time pressure on one party.  All forms of communication are cutoff in an attempt to create desperation from the other party.
  24. The Flirt – an appeal to one parties ego through sexual flirtation or compliments.  Appeals to the social need “wanting to be liked”.
  25. Peer Pressure – stemming from the days of the playground.  All your competitors will be carrying this product, or using this technology, etc. and you’ll be the only one missing this opportunity.

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