SALES

4 Dirty Negotiating Tricks (and How to Counter Them)

Don't let your customer manipulate you into making unnecessary concessions to close the deal.
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Even if you're hoping to reach a win-win agreement with your customer, there's always a chance that the customer will try to pull a fast one.  Here are four common negotiating tricks and exactly how to counter them.

1. Pretending to have cold feet.

Scenario: You've already reached verbal agreement, but as you're negotiating the final terms, the prospect questions the wisdom of the deal, saying something like "we're not really sure that this is the right thing for us to do at this time."

What the prospect is hoping that you'll offer additional concessions rather than lose the sale.  Rather than jumping to concessions, however, your best strategy is probe further to see whether there's a real problem or whether you're just being yanked around.

Wrong:

  • Prospect: We're not sure this is the right time to do this.
  • You: What do I have to do to make certain this happens?
  • Prospect: If you throw in 6 months of free support, I can get everything approved.

Right:

  • Prospect: We're not sure this is the right time to do this.
  • You: What is making you question our agreement?
  • Prospect: Uhhh... we're thinking maybe it costs too much.
  • You: Let's go over the ROI figures that we both agreed upon.

2. Surfacing an unreasonable requirement.

Scenario: You're working with a prospect to craft a deal and suddenly the customer demands something that makes no business sense, like: "We'll need you to stop doing business with our competitors if you're doing business with us."

What's going on here is that the prospect is planning to concede the unreasonable request as a bargaining chip to extract more realistic concessions.  Your best strategy is to call the customer's bluff.

Wrong:

  • Prospect: We need you to supply our entire management team with new cars.
  • You: What? That would completely destroy our profit margins!  I can't do that!
  • Prospect: Oh.  Well, if you can't do that, how about a 15% discount.
  • You (relieved): Yes, I can probably make that happen.

Right:

  • Prospect: We need you to supply our entire management team with new cars.
  • You: Since that's not going to happen, it sounds like you're not really interested in buying. Is that the case?
  • Prospect: Well... Hey, it never hurts to ask!

3. Requesting a last minute discount.

Scenario: You're at the point of signing the contracts, with an agreed-upon price, when the prospect demands a steep discount of the deal is off.  Example: "My boss says that if don't drop the price 25 percent, the deal is off."

What's really going on here is that the prospect is checking to confirm that you've given them the best deal. The worst thing you can do at this point is to give the discount, because then you've told the prospect you can't be trusted to offer the best deal.

Wrong:

  • Prospect: The deal is off unless I get a 10% discount.
  • You: Okay, I'll make that change.
  • Prospect (thinks): This bozo was trying to overcharge me!

Right:

  • Prospect: The deal is off unless I get a 10% discount.
  • You: I don't play the games that some of my competitors play. You will always get the best price from me the first time around. If we need to remove something from the quote to meet your budget, we can certainly do that.
  • Prospect: Never mind. Let's get this done.

4. Stretching out the process.

Scenario: The sales opportunity is proceeding apace when suddenly all the important meetings are pushed way out.  Example: "I can't meet next Friday to discuss this; how about next month?"

In this case, prospect is hoping that you've got a quota to make and therefore will sweeten the deal in order to speed up the process.  Your best strategy in such situations is to surface some negative consequences of delaying the sale.

Wrong:

  • Prospect: I have some openings in my schedule six weeks from now.
  • You: Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?
  • Prospect: Well, if you can drop the price, I can push things through earlier.

Right:

  • Prospect: I have some openings in my schedule six weeks from now.
  • You: Happy to meet then.  However, I should let you know that our prices will be rising next month, so if you're at all interested in moving forward at the lowest price, we might want to meet a bit earlier.
  • Prospect: How about next week?

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IMAGE: Matthias Clamer/Getty
Last updated: Aug 6, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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