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How to beat dirty negotiating tactics. 10 tips
Anirban Dutta
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August 17, 2007

Much has been written about negotiation styles. There have been many courses about negotiation, which dedicates entire course work on collaborating and reaching a win-win scenario.

In today's 'flat world' business environment, positional bargaining method or fact and reference based negotiation model are standard prescriptions for commercial negotiation.

But what do you do, when you sit across the table from somebody whose goal is not to come to a win-win conclusion, but to really beat you down and manipulate you. Well, although it is always a drain to combat dirty negotiation tactics, I have learned that being prepared can help overcome some of that headache.

The ten tips described below are designed to help you identify and respond appropriately to common dirty negotiation tactics used by unscrupulous business people.

Shock effect

As much of value selling and convincing you have done, at the end of the deal when the time comes to discuss price, many customers show some shock effect. What! That much for enterprise licenses, are you kidding me?

It is very easy to fall in the trap of desperately wanting to close the deal and offer unnecessary concessions like free services, installation etc. This will be a good time to remind your customer how they will truly benefit using your offerings.

Also, it is not rude to tell them that quality products have a fair price; after all you get what you pay for.

Ongoing discount

Have you ever heard something on these lines, "We are so close to signing this contract, if only we can solve this last issue?" You oblige, then comes out another issue followed by one more and then another. Very soon, you are giving away much more than what you originally intended.

It is a good practice to list all customer issues early in the sales cycle based on priority. If new issues are added, put it in the list and re prioritize. When your customer asks for resolving this last issue, get a firm commitment on closing the deal right then after that issue is resolved. In this way, you only maybe give in to the last demand and not the ones following it.

Boss knows best

I have spent countless hours discussing value props with customers convincing them to buy from me, only to find out that they are not the true decision makers. They can only negotiate to receive discounts but really do not have any rights to actually buy from me.

Basically I have negotiated with the wrong person. One way to avoid this is to ask early in the sales cycle how the decision to buy is being made on the customer side. Who makes the decision? Who influences the decision? Especially for higher end technical sales, many a times although the CIO has the final say on the procurement; he is completely dependent on the class architect to make the call on the vendor.

It is important to identify the players involved in the decision making process and talk to them individually or collectively to resolve their issues.

Fake deadline

"If we cannot sign the agreement today, the deal is off". Be very wary when your customer puts a time pressure on the day of the meeting trying to get you committed on an unfair deal. Time is a valuable pressure tactic. Tell your customer that you are trying to create a true solution for them.

It is important that you truly understand their issues first and do due diligence. It is unfair to you and him if you commit on something you do not feel comfortable about.

If they do not want to listen and force the time issue, it is your call whether you want to walk or budge in to their unilateral demands.


March, June, September and December are hot months for sales folks trying to sprint to quarter end. Although progress has been made, your customer is deliberately delaying making a decision.

Many manipulative customers feel that they can count on the fact that you have spent time and money on the sales process for a long time and will not want to go back without selling. This will be a great way to snag in a few concessions.

It is wise to stay as emotionally detached as possible not caving in and making unnecessary concessions to close these deals. Remember, that your customer also spent valuable time with you in the sales cycle. You both have skin in the game. Don't rush to closing; you have mutual benefits tied to the deal.

Unfair trading request

A friend of mine in Dallas built a nice little dashboard for a manufacturing shop that can track orders online in near real time. When time came to close the deal, the manufacturing unit wanted sole rights to the product. They wanted to use it for themselves and then resell it to other similar outfits in the manufacturing space.

However, they did not want to offer my buddy any cuts from the profit for it. This is an example of unfair trading request. Ask something in return of value always. You may lose some deals in the short run, but probably will come ahead of the curve in the end when forcing fair trade.

Suddenly cold

Many employers like to play this mind game while trying to hire somebody. They seem very interested in the early stages of the interview process, and then all of a sudden they seem to have lost all interest in you.

When you pursue your interest for the position again, they say they will hire you. But they really cannot pay what you think they were going to pay you. You agree to their terms thinking that they seem to like you moderately and are not really jazzed up about you.

This is a good time to resell yourself again on why they should pay you what you think they should pay you. Craft your message on "what's in it for them" to hire you.

Wrongful summary

The other party summarizes the agreement but misrepresents certain sections on his favor. If you listen especially carefully to the wrapping up part of the negotiation, you will not fall in this trap.

You should take notes and refer back to them if necessary to make sure that the summary accurately describes what you agreed upon.

False importance to an item

A great deal of importance is placed on a agenda item that your customer knows that you simply cannot budge in. They make you feel guilty, put pressure etc. hoping that you would give them other concessions to make up for the one you could not give in. One way to avoid this is to treat each issue independently and make separate decisions.

New player

You feel that you are moving along well and suddenly you see a new person negotiating with you. He wants to start discussing every item from scratch and do not want to acknowledge previous agreements. If you cannot pursue him to honor prior understanding, start fresh again.

It may be good to get another negotiator from your side to start dealing all over again since you may get frustrated dealing over the same issues again.

As hard as it may sound, negotiators are better off remembering that dirty tactics used by manipulative negotiators are never really personal and it is all part of the game.If you are fair in your dealings and stay emotionally detached, you will possibly negotiate your way to a win/win result most of the time. I wish you all the best in your negotiations.

Anirban Dutta, PMP� is an Assistant Vice President for Satyam Computer Services Ltd [Get Quote].

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