You might be an ethical, well-intended negotiator who’s always aiming for win-win outcomes. But let’s not be naïve: not every person you encounter will have the same mindset. Sometimes, perhaps more often than you’d like, you’ll come up against underhanded negotiation tactics designed to knock you off balance and pressure you to accept less-than-perfect deals.

To help you avoid getting taken for ride, here are three common negotiating tricks to watch out for and some simple but powerful strategies to manage them.

1. Last-minute cold feet

Consider this situation: You’ve arrived at what you consider to be a verbal agreement. But, as you’re negotiating the final details, your counterpart seems to get cold feet, saying, “To be honest, I’m starting to question whether this deal is actually the right thing for us at the moment.”

In this case, your counterpart is hoping that you’ll make additional concessions rather than lose the deal. Yet, instead of moving immediately to concessions, your best strategy is to dig deeper to determine if there’s a real issue… or if you’re simply being taken for a ride.

Bad example:

  • Them: We’re questioning whether the deal is actually the right thing for us at the moment.
  • You: What do you to need us to do make it happen?
  • Them: If you throw in 12 months of free support, I may be able to get it approved.

Good example:

  • Them: We’re questioning whether the deal is actually the right thing for us at the moment.
  • You: What’s making you question our deal?
  • Them: Look, it’s a bit on the expensive side.
  • You: Why don’t we review the ROI calculations that we agreed upon…

2. Unreasonable requests

Imagine you’re negotiating with a prospective customer and, as you approach a final deal, they throw in an unreasonable demand, like: “I’m sorry, but a pre-condition of you doing business with us is to cease doing business with our main competitor.”

Here, your counterpart may well be planning to concede on their new ‘fabricated’ request as a ‘bargaining chip’ to extract more ‘real’ concessions from you. In response, simply call their bluff.

Bad example:

  • Them: We need you to cease doing business with our main competitor.
  • You: What? That would destroy our business! I can’t do that!
  • Them: Oh. Well, if you can’t do that, how about a 10% discount?
  • You (feeling relieved): Yes, let me see what I can do…

Good example:

  • Them: We need you to cease doing business with our main competitor.
  • You: Given that we can’t make that commitment, I get the impression that like you’re not really interested in buying. Is that right?
  • Them: Okay, well, it never hurts to ask!

3. Stalling the process

Ever been in a sales negotiation where things seem to be moving along quickly, until suddenly it all comes to an abrupt halt? They delay returning your calls or your important meetings are pushed off, saying, “I can’t meet next week anymore; how about next quarter?”

In this situation, your prospective customer is hoping that you’ve got targets to hit and will likely ‘sweeten the deal’ to speed up the process. Your best strategy in such cases is to (politely) highlight the negative consequences of delaying the sale.

Bad example:

  • Them: I can’t meet next week anymore; how about next quarter?
  • You: What can I do to speed up the process?
  • Them: Well, if you can cut the price, I may be able to push things through more quickly.

Good example:

  • Them: I can’t meet next week anymore; how about next quarter?
  • You: I’m happy to meet then. However, I should let you know that we’ve planned a price rise next quarter, so if want to secure a lower price, I suggest we meet a little earlier.
  • Them: Okay, let me see if I can squeeze in a meeting next week then…

As we often say, you can’t control your counterpart’s mindset or strategy in negotiation. But you can be deliberate and strategic about your own response. And when you act strategically in the face of underhanded tricks and tactics – rather than reactively – you’ll boost your chances of achieving the results you’re after.

To further improve your outcomes in your next negotiation, use our Harvard-based Negotiation Planner: Click here to access this free resource.

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