A negotiation tactic, as compared to a negotiation strategy, is a single maneuver to be employed in the heat of battle; a move, countermove or adjustment employed as you work to gain the best possible outcome at any given moment. Tactics may also be used manipulatively by another party, to move you from a position of safety to a place where you are more vulnerable to attack. As a negotiator, you must be prepared for such tactics at every turn.
Most tactics fall into one of five basic categories: Pressure, Delaying, Manipulative, Power (One-Up) and Collaborative. We will discuss some commonly used tactics, and how to identify and neutralize them to keep the negotiation on the principled track.
1. Deadlines pressure both parties in a negotiation to make choices and are used to create movement. Deadlines may be artificial or real. They can be external deadlines imposed by the other party or internal deadlines within your own organization. “If I don’t get your order by Friday, I can’t guarantee the delivery you need.”
– To neutralize the Deadline, test it. Ask questions to see how real and how firm it is. The person setting the deadline is counting on the fact that it’s human nature to believe deadlines are real. It is in your best interest to be skeptical. If you decide that the deadline is real, determine where it comes from, whether an extension is possible, and what the consequences would be of missing the deadline.
2. Competition is another powerful pressure tactic. When people are clamoring for the other party’s product, they can charge a more competitive price. When people are clamoring to sell to you, you can generally pay a lower price. The other party can “create” competition by saying, “We’ll have to send this out for bids.” They can also create a sense of competition by talking about previous orders with other companies or about what someone else is doing. “I like your product, but Acme down the street sells almost the same thing for $100 less. Can you match that?”
– To neutralize this tactic, ask questions to find out as much information as possible about what the competition is offering. Is the product the same? Is it of the same quality? What are the payment terms? Are they adding more charges for delivery or packaging?
3. The Limited Authority tactic creates a situation where the negotiator cites their limited ability to make a decision, creating a stall in the negotiations. The advantage of using Limited Authority is that it may lower your aspiration level. It also allows time to delay decisions. “My boss will have to authorize this.”
– The keys to countering this tactic are finding out who makes decisions and arranging a way to meet with them. It is important, when possible, to start negotiating with the individual who has final authority in order to prevent this tactic from being used. Try to find out what standards are used to determine whether an agreement will be authorized or not.
4. A similar and related tactic, the Missing Person tactic, occurs when the other party acts as if the Missing Person needs to be included in the deal, wouldn’t accept something you’re suggesting, or needs to be consulted on some detail. It’s not that the person you’re talking to wouldn’t like to continue the negotiation, but they say someone else needs to be involved AKA. ” someone who was never present at the meeting or who left earlier, or someone who has to authorize something. “I can’t discuss delivery times because our scheduling manager is out for the rest of the week.”
– Prior to negotiating, attempt to find out who makes final decisions regarding delivery times, price, payment terms, etc. You can also ask to set up a meeting with that person if the other party attempts to use this tactic.
5. The Moral Appeal tactic is supposed to remind you that the goal of the negotiation is mutual satisfaction. It appeals to your sense of fairness. It includes any statement whose purpose is to get you onto the other party’s side. “Let’s be fair. You can’t expect a firm price with the problems in the economy.”
– Explain to the other party that the terms you have agreed to are in each other’s best interests. Ask probing questions to find out what will happen to the other party. What is their underlying motivation?
6. Good Guy/Bad Guy – we have all seen this one used on police shows on television. One member of a negotiating team takes an extreme stand or radical position, making excessive demands and refusing to offer reasonable concessions. This tends to intimidate you, get you off-balance and lower your aspiration. Then the “Good Guy” comes into the act with conciliatory and soothing comments and a more reasonable offer. Even though the offer may still not be very good in absolute terms, it looks great in comparison to what the “Bad Guy” had to say. Often the natural impulse is to agree.
– Be careful not to be taken in by the Good Guy. While his offer may sound fantastic compared to the Bad Guy’s, the terms may still be unacceptable. Find out more about the terms, and see if they are consistent with your objectives.
7. Blanketing is generalizing: saying that everyone’s doing it. Kids are experts at this tactic. However, it also appears frequently in business. The objective of the tactic is to create credibility and weaken the other side’s position. “How can I continue to buy from you? Everyone else is lowering their prices.”
– Use objective criteria to determine just what the correct (fair) provisions of your agreement should be. For example: industry standards, rate of inflation, or standard profit margin. Also, ask questions to find out what the competition is offering or what deals have been drawn up with other clients. “Who is ‘everyone’?”
8. Association is a tactic that may occur in conjunction with Blanketing. Many of the most successful sales people will use this tactic at the beginning of a sales call or a negotiation to enhance their credibility. Also known as “name dropping,” this tactic is a popular way of increasing the other party’s power in a negotiation. It can be blatant or subtle. It is most effective when true, but can be very manipulative when untrue. “This project reminds me of one I did for B.F. Goodrich.”
– Ask the other party probing questions to find out what they did for the other companies. What terms did they agree to? How large was their order? Get as many details as possible about what they’ve done for them in the past.
With a basic understanding of the types of manipulative tactics and how they work, you can move to neutralize almost anything the other party attempts. Remember to keep working on a principled level and try for a win-win outcome.
By James Baker
James Baker is the founder of Baker Communications. Baker Communications offers leading edge Negotiation Training solutions that will help you address the goals and achieve the solutions addressed in this article. For more information about how your organization can achieve immediate and lasting behavior change that leads to bigger wins during negotiations in any setting, click here.