3 Sneaky Negotiating Tricks

man in negotiations
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Master negotiators have a whole toolbox full of negotiating tactics to draw from, some of which are more ethical than others. Sadly, some prospects have no hesitation in using shady negotiation tactics in order to get a better deal out of you. You'll have to decide for yourself which negotiation tactics it's ethical to use, and which are just blatantly unfair. However, keep in mind that the prospects you encounter may not come to the same conclusions that you do.

Here are some of the sneakier tricks that you may meet across the negotiating table, and a few ideas for coping with them.

The Bogus Issue

Negotiating is all about compromise. A clever negotiator can use that to his advantage by picking out an issue that's not really important to him, but that's very important to the other side – and pretending that it really does matter to him.

For example, the prospect might not be all that concerned about your product's power usage, but he might insist that it's too high, knowing that you have no way of changing that. Once he's made it clear that this is a big deal, he will then magnanimously agree to settle for the status quo, in exchange for a "minor" concession on price. The best way to counter this tactic is to become familiar with the prospect's needs before you start serious negotiating. That will make it easier for you to spot empty demands.

The Last-Minute Demand

A smart negotiator will know very well that once you get right to the end of the sales process, when all that's left is signing on the dotted line, that's the moment that you will be most anxious to close.

So that's the moment that some prospects will choose to suddenly bring up an issue that you thought was settled. For example, he might say, "I've been thinking about the warranty you offer and I don't think it's good enough. I really need a two-year warranty in place if I'm going to buy from you today."

In this situation, you have a couple of options (aside from either caving in or walking away from the deal). First, you can use it as an opportunity to reopen negotiations to your benefit. If the prospect wants a better warranty, that's fine – he'll just need to pay a little more. Second, you can tell the prospect that it's your company policy never to make changes in a proposal that's been approved by both sides. However, you might be able to make a small concession on something that's not covered in the proposal, such as delivery time.

The Comparison Shop

Most prospects who are contemplating a major purchase will take the time to speak with some of your competitors. But really sharp negotiators will take this a step further by using their comparison-shopping as a weapon. For example, let's say a prospect discovers that Competitor A offers an extended warranty and competitor B offers a 10% discount to customers who sign a three-year contract. The prospect might then come to you and say, "I like your product, but I see that your competitors offer better warrantees and discounts to long-term contract holders. If you want me to buy from you, I need you to match what your competitors can offer."

Depending on the nature of the special requests, they can easily push a sale into the unprofitable zone. How you want to handle this situation will depend on just how outrageous the prospect's requests are. If the request is problematic, you can say something like, "I'm afraid I won't be able to get authorization for a warranty that long." Then try to offer a compromise, such as a discount on maintenance for the first five years.