Sometimes buyers work with sellers with a win-win or partner approach. But even when they do, they might throw in negotiation tactics just to get you to lower the price or get more for themselves. Sometimes buyers have a selective memory and forget what they agreed to already. Sometimes buyers try to throw “one last thing” into the deal at the end. Sometimes buyers pretend to be (or actually are) shocked by the price.
If they do want to negotiate, you need to know how to respond, hold your ground, and focus the conversation on getting the best agreement for all, including you.
Sellers hear certain negotiation tactics more often than others. For instance, buyers use a variety of strategies to negotiate price. But there are other tactics that pop up every now and then.
5 negotiation tactics and how to respond to them
Here are five such tactics to prepare for so you’re not caught off guard when they come your way.
The red herring.
Closing the window.
Splitting the difference.
If you want to negotiate like a pro, learn how to counter these these negotiation tactics. Read on to make sure you’re prepared!
1. The red herring
As a seller, you’ll likely come across a situation where a buyer distracts the negotiation by introducing an unimportant issue, but makes it seem important, so they’ll get a concession from you elsewhere when they drop it.
For example, let’s say you’re focusing on the key parts of the solution and the pricing, but then the buyer brings up a large request for a concession on a side topic. They make it seem important to them and keep at it. After a while, they drop the request for a concession and all seems well. Except then they ask for another concession saying that they gave you a big concession by dropping their issue. This is a play on fairness because they gave up something important, and now they’re asking you to do it.
But they invented the issue knowing they would later give it up as a ploy to make an ask of you that seems reasonable.
Respond with something like, “Yes, that was a different issue, but if I remember, there were a lot of issues on both sides of that situation. We can re-address that as you like, but these things seem mutually exclusive. It doesn’t seem the two are related.”
2. The deadlock
This is a scare tactic to see if you’ll cave to the buyer’s demand. After what might seem to be an impasse, they might say, “Well, it looks like we have no deal. Sorry, we couldn’t work it out. At least we can both move on now.”
If you’re faced with this, don’t suddenly drop the price. They might be testing you and want to see whether you’ll blink. If you think it’s a bluff, don’t blink.
If you don’t mind blinking a little, ask for some time to think and schedule a check-in call the next day.
Start by asking why you can’t work it out. Offer to review the objectives, possibilities and requirements, and brainstorm. If it’s still in your mutual interest to keep working at it, suggest bringing in fresh faces to help think things through.
3. The outlast
You’ve worked out a great solution and agreement with the buyer. There are a few points left to finalize. They seemed hesitant about the service-level agreement and implementation phases, but you’re confident you can negotiate a mutually agreeable solution with a few trades.
But then they cancel your next meeting. And then they have a major company conference that puts everything on hold for a month. You finally get a response to your latest email saying: “This is a too much for us right now. Let’s re-engage in two months.”
The last thing you want to do is come across over eager or too excited about moving forward. Instead, focus on urgency on their end by asking questions.
You might say, “No problem, we can wait. But I’m curious: How is this delay going to affect your goal to expand operations by Q3?”
Know their objectives and requirements. When something is in their interest, they should be willing to move an agreement forward. And if there’s a real reason with advantages for them to move forward sooner than later, or disadvantages if they don’t move forward, introduce it.
4. Close the window
You’re about to work on a negotiation with a buyer, and you know you need time to sort through the issues. You arrive at 9 a.m. and have a hard stop at noon. They say, “Before we work on the agreement, we’d love to give you a tour of the shop floor.”
While it’s easy to fall into this trap, don’t. This might seem like an ideal opportunity to build rapport and trust, but this tactic is a form of time pressure. By accepting this offer, you put yourself in a position where you might run out of time.
Instead, let them know that you’d love to, but you should get through the agreement first and then use the time left at the end for the tour.
If buyers try this tactic, ask to focus on the business agenda first.
5. Splitting the difference
In this case, the buyer asks you to meet in the middle, even though the middle might not be fair to you.
Let’s say you proposed $90,000 for the price in your negotiation with the buyer. The buyer offered back $80,000 and seems to be holding there. After a while, they say, “Well, why don’t we just meet in the middle and then we can move forward.”
If their response is that it’s fair, tell them you’re not sure why and talk about objectives and that the price of the goods and services to meet those objectives is $90,000. Just because splitting the difference is equal, does not mean it’s equitable.
If they have a budget issue, perhaps you can work with them on payment timing. If they just won’t spend more, it might be a cash issue or it might be a value challenge. In this case, you can review and possibly change scope or offer trades.
In any case, search for a better solution than offering to split the difference. Never split the difference!
Negotiation is part of the game. If you want to win the sale, you need to be prepared for all the fastballs, curveballs, and sliders thrown your way. Each buyer is different and so are their strategies. By practicing multiple scenarios, you’ll set yourself up for the best chance of success.