Unfortunately, some people will resort to “dirty tricks” in an effort get what they want in a negotiation. Below are a few examples of common tricks, along with some methods on how you can defend yourself, if not turn it back on them.
One aggressive technique is the use of threats in a negotiation. Often this tactic practiced by an inexperienced or poor negotiator. The best way to respond is to say something like, “Let me see if I understand you. If I can’t meet your price on this bid, you plan to break my legs? Is that correct?” By simply kicking it back to them, it can force them to better explain what they meant and why. It also gives you time to think about how to handle this threat. If the threat is just a bluff, you move the negotiation on or just ignore it. If it is real, you can suggest a reciprocal action like talking to their supervisor about the threat or contacting the local trade journal.
Another rather common dirty trick is the “good cop/bad cop” routine. In this scenario, the other side uses two negotiators. One is the good cop and your buddy who acts sympathetic to you. The other is the bad cop who is aggressive and argumentative. The best way to handle this situation would be to flip it back on them saying, “You two don’t seem to be on the same page. Maybe you two need to meet separately to iron out your disagreement. How about we take a ten minute break?” This response will totally disarm them and they will likely apologize for the mixed message. In the meantime, you just bought some time to figure out your next move.
Finally, a petty but common practice by buyers and purchasing agents is to keep the sales rep waiting in the lobby. Other versions of this dirty trick includes answering phone calls during your meeting, accepting visitors during the meeting, or excusing themselves in the middle of your presentation. All of these tricks or diversions, which could be totally staged or planned ahead, are meant to fluster, interrupt, or “buffalo you”. This passive-aggressive technique is a real time waster. The best thing to do is to confront them on the tactic and suggest that your time is valuable and that maybe a reschedule of the meeting is in order. Odds are they will get the message and stop the dirty tricks.
John Bradley Jackson
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