Negotiation Gambits and tactics...


Many of the following will sound familiar, it's worth staying alert to where they may be used against you as opposed to learning a bag of tricks that can undermine trust and credibility, as well as future business opportunities and potentially your reputation.

reluctance seeming to be less enthusiastic or hesitant about their offer, the other party may feel they need to try harder or offer concessions. If you decide to play the gambit game, you could counter this move if it is played against you by referring to higher authority or good cop, bad cop.  

the flinch when you physically react to unwelcome proposals. Where you don't react to what is offered it may seem like everything is palatable to you. You could counter by recognising the gambit light heartedly.

Feel, felt, found

...bringing your feelings or experience into the equation means that the other person can feel that you have been listening, you could even agree with them and then use 'feel, felt, found' to counter their suggestion. 

Want it all

...this involves you asking for far more than you really want so that you can appear to make concessions later. You can counter by appealing to their sense of fair play or use reluctant buyer.

first offer

...the argument is that you should never accept their first offer if you suspect that the other person is playing negotiation chess. Again you could counter with higher authority

the vice technique

...usually prefaced by, 'Sorry you will have to do better than that...', apparently inexperienced negotiators will often give up their position when confronted by this response. You could counter by asking them how much better do you have to do as a means of pinning them down. 

funny money

...breaks down costs to make them seem much smaller. For example, saying something costs 45p a day may be the final figure is closer to £12,000. Think in real money terms to avoid being fooled. 

higher authority

...the suggestion that someone far senior is required to rubber-stamp any final details is very familiar. Try to clarify up from if the other person has the authority to make necessary decisions - and clarify who the invisible authority is so that you may communicate with them directly where possible.  

splitting the difference

...when you are asked to do this, treat this as a new offer. You may be able to get them to split the difference again. If you want to indulge in trickery (which we are not advocating) you could say that you could try but ultimately it is not your decision to make. 

act smart, play dumb

...according to your perceived status and credibility in the first place, it may be useful to avoid looking too slick as it may unsettle the other person. Playing down your competitive threat may encourage them to be less aggressive in response. 

trade off

...if someone asks for something, ask for something in return. Make an issue out of such requests if they appear to be trying to erode your position. Counter as you would with a nibble, by highlighting that they may not be playing fair or being reasonable. 

set aside

...often used when there an impasse has been reached, it involves setting aside the objection or sticking points and seeking more agreeable territory. An extremely useful way to move towards win-wins. where there may be an apparently unresolvable situation. Where it is used against you, if you want to be Machiavellian, you could threaten to withdraw. 

third party

...this technique may be used when an actual deadlock is reached, where a neutral third party is invited to help find common ground. Inevitably, as mediator, they will often seek to split the difference which can be compromising if the other party has used the 'want it all' tactic. Be sure you accept the neutrality of the third party if you do agree to this option. 

Hot potato

...when someone presents their problem as a barrier to the negotiation, if you accept it it becomes your problem too. Test the validity of the hot potato. You could also approach the subject hypothetically. For example saying, 'If costs weren't an issue would you be looking for our premium offer' may open up further possibilities. You could also suggest different ways to package up your final offer.

the leaking pipe

...the value of services diminishes after they have been performed. When you work on a consulting basis, naturally you should negotiate your fee up front, as a plumber would do who was called to fix a leaking pipe. Once the drips have been fixed the value of their service drops!  Similarly, any time you make a concession aim to get a reciprocal trade off right away. 

printed word

...use the printed word to elevate the status of the points you make. The written word often appears to have more status than the spoken. Apparently, hotels used to have far more trouble in getting guests to check out on time until they printed the request.  You can counter someone else's written words by acknowledging that they have an author and are not necessarily written in stone. 

maintain perspective

...keep your focus on your bottom line goals and not on the trivia of concessions. This is the case even when the other part walks out or threatens to, these may be ploys to further their position - and in any case you must not go beyond your bottom line. Keep a written record of your goals and of their concessions so that you can retain an objective view of the situation.   

walk away prepared to turn down the deal and walk away if terms are not desirable. There is often a point that you may reach in a negotiation where emotionally you will not want to walk away - at this point you are at your most vulnerable. Always reserve the right to walk away. If it happens to you, you could call their bluff with good cop, bad cop - leaving good cop behind. Even when they really walk away, keep the door open by saying you're sorry that you couldn't find a way to make things work on this occasion. 

good cop. bad, cop

...we all know this one! One person takes a hard line and the other appears far more conciliatory. Always look out for it if you are negotiating with two or more parties. The counter tactic is to point out that you realise what is being used, which may embarrass them into retreat.  

withdrawn offer could withdraw an offer or concession previously made as a means of drawing a negotiation to a close where things have become protracted. Again, you can infer that a higher authority os not happy with overly generous terms previously made on your part - and that it would be a struggle to get them back on the table.  The other person may sign when you miraculously manage to reinstate the original offer. 

the decoy an issue that is designed to take your attention away from the real issue. The decoy is then conceded in an effort to get a concession on what really matters. Be careful to negotiate the real issue and not the decoy. Be wary of accepting the linking of two issues. Where you are unsure you could also defer making a decision  - which in turn may put them under greater pressure.  

the nibble

...after everything has been agreed, ask for a little more. Just before you are about to sign you can say, 'that does include transport costs doesn't it?...'etc. To avoid it happening to you, keep your written goals close by and stay focused upon what concessions you can justifiably agree to. You could also call their greedy behaviour in a gentle way.

puppy dog

...another technique to help close a negotiation, it involves the other side take the products or services for a trial period with the assumption that they won't be able to tear themselves away from it a few months hence. It's hard to return the adorable puppy - or at the very least a hassle when they have behaved as billed. Avoid putting yourself in an obligated position - suggest another way forward. 

write contract or someone in your office should always be the ones to write any contract - so that the wording of more peripheral issues can be written in ways which suit your best interests - and remain ethical. Where you are not the authors, you may find you need to suggest adjustments to minor details. In worst case scenarios this may mean asking them to return to the negotiating table to get things ironed out, which would be less than ideal. 

easy acceptance

...allow the other party to feel good about giving you what you ask for. Sometimes people walk away from good deals because they feel that they have lost even when they haven't!  Let them know how well they have done and remind them of the extra concessions they have achieved. Maintaining perspective, means you won't fall for this one.

return to successful negotiations...