When negotiating you will periodically encounter the “cry baby”, which is a negotiator who has learned that if they cry loud enough and long enough, he or she might get what they want. This behavior resembles a two year old screaming until you pick them up to shut them up. They scream because it works and so it goes for the negotiator who is cry baby. They do it because it works.

The behavior of the cry baby consists of yelling, swearing, and wild gesturing. It can include pounding on the table and jumping up and down. Once when I was a rookie sales rep in the semiconductor business, I had a buyer actually cry about the pricing I had offered; she said that her job was on the line and she had to have a lower price. If not, she was history. I gave in. The tears went away and I hardly got a thank you. In truth, I got my pocket picked. It was hard lesson for me at the time, but one that I learned.

On the other side of the table, the opposite party often feels embarrassed and awkward. The ranting makes the other party feel as if they have done something wrong which is what the cry baby wants. When this happens, you need to think like a parent who has a screaming two year old. Fight the impulse to pick the baby up. Instead, you need to stay cool and collected. One way to react to this situation is to ignore it. Alternatively, you can suggest a break in the meeting much like a “time out” for the two year old. Offer them a cool drink of water which might “cool them off” and stop the ranting.

Another time when I was a bit more seasoned as sales person, I had a buyer threaten to jump out the window of his high rise New York City office building if I could not meet his price demands. This time I politely said that I could not help him out. I actually wanted to say, “Go ahead and jump”. Guess what happened? He did not jump and I did get the order.

Another approach to this emotion packed situation, it is let the cry baby purge themselves of their rant. Calmly acknowledge their feelings and emotion with a statement like, “I can see you are pretty upset”. Then ask them to explain why they feel this way. This calm approach may allow them to be more specific about the issues below the surface. It could be that something simple and fixable might be the cause. In this case, the cry baby might have a legitimate issue to cry about.

When all else fails, give them a lollipop.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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