Effective responses to 5 common negotiation tactics

Save the sale

Most of your customers will want to work with you in a win-win or partnership approach, understanding that a fair deal and a good working relationship leads to long-term success for both parties. But that doesn’t mean they won’t use certain negotiation tactics to get a lower price or more value from you.

Here are five such tactics to prepare for, so you’re not caught off guard when they come your way.

5 negotiation tactics and how to respond to them

  1. The red herring.
  2. The deadlock.
  3. The outlast.
  4. Closing the window.
  5. Splitting the difference.

If you want to negotiate like a pro, learn how to counter these negotiation tactics. Read on to ensure you’re prepared!

 1. The red herring

As a seller, you’ll sometimes encounter a situation where a buyer derails the negotiation by introducing a trivial issue, but makes it seem important. The plan is usually to get a concession from you elsewhere when they drop it. For example, you’re a wedding planner discussing food options with the client, who then brings up a demand for you to purchase expensive out-of-season flowers for the table arrangements.

They make it seem important to them and keep at it. After a while, they drop the request and ask for another concession, such as a lower cost per head for the catering. This is a play on fairness because they gave up something important, and now they’re asking you to do it.

Keep the issues mutually exclusive: Respond by saying something like: “Yes, that was a different issue. We can re-address that as you like, but I don’t believe the concerns are related.”

 2. The deadlock

This is a scare tactic to see if you’ll cave to the buyer’s demand. After what might seem to be a deadlock when negotiating your fee to build their website, they might say, “Well, it looks like we have no deal. Let’s move on.” If you’re faced with this, don’t suddenly drop the price. They might be testing you and want to see whether you’ll blink. If you think it’s a bluff, don’t blink.

Keep the door open: Respond by asking for some time to think about it and schedule a check-in call the next day. Start by asking why you can’t work it out. Offer to review the objectives, possibilities and requirements. If it’s still in your mutual interest to keep working at it, suggest that you keep talking.

 3. The outlast

You’ve worked out a great marketing campaign and agreement with your client. There are a few points left to finalise. They seemed hesitant about the service-level agreement and implementation phases, but you’re confident you can negotiate a mutually agreeable solution with a few trade-offs.

But then they cancel your next meeting. And then they have a major company conference that puts everything on hold for a month. You finally get a response to your latest email saying: “This is too much for us right now. Let’s talk in two months.”

Shift the conversation to their requirement: Respond by focusing on the urgency on their end. Know their objectives and requirements. When something is in their interest, they should be willing to move an agreement forward. And if there’s a real reason with advantages for them to move forward sooner than later, or disadvantages if they don’t move forward, introduce it.

 4. Close the window

You’re about to work on a negotiation with a buyer, and you know you need time to sort through the issues. Perhaps you have a quarterly target you need to meet before the end of the month or the client must commit their budget by next week or risk losing it.

But when it’s time to start the serious talk about your proposal, they suggest that you call back next week after they’ve had time to digest your documents. Or maybe they will want to take you on a tour of their office before you get around to finalising and signing documents.

Put business first on the agenda: Be aware that some buyers suggest time wasters first so you are time-pressured when you actually get to negotiating. If buyers try this tactic, ask to focus on the business agenda first – and indicate your availability to spend time on the factory tour later.

 5. Splitting the difference

In this case, the buyer asks you to meet in the middle, even though the middle might not be fair to you. Let’s say you proposed R90,000 for the price in your negotiation with the buyer. The buyer offers R80,000 and seems to be holding there. After a while, they say, “Well, why don’t we just meet in the middle and then we can move forward.”

If this happens, find out why they want to split the difference. If their response is that it’s fair, tell them you’re not sure why and talk about objectives and that the price of the goods and services to meet those objectives is R90,000. Just because splitting the difference is equal, does not mean it’s equitable.

Working it out

If they have a budget issue, perhaps you can work with them on payment timing. If they just won’t spend more, it might be a cash issue or it might be a value challenge. In this case, you can review and possibly change scope or offer trades. In any case, search for a better solution than offering to split the difference.

Be prepared for the curveballs: Negotiation is part of the game. If you want to win the sale, you need to be prepared for all the fastballs and curveballs thrown in your direction. Each buyer is different and so are their strategies. By practicing multiple scenarios, you’ll set yourself up for the best chance of success.

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