What can you do when negotiations turn ugly?
Have you ever been side-swiped at the negotiating table? You’ve entered into a negotiation in good faith, and you expected your counterparty to be tough but reasonable. Instead, you find a hostile adversary sat opposite you.
When faced with aggressive negotiation tactics, most of us feel anxious, annoyed or even alarmed
When faced with aggressive negotiation tactics, most of us feel anxious, annoyed or even alarmed. The good news is that there are ways you can prepare and parry this kind of technique. You don’t need to turn into a monster and match their style.
What you’ll learn in this month’s Ask the Negotiator is:
Some well-known names and characteristics of aggressive negotiation techniques
How to respond without losing your cool
Just a few examples of aggressive negotiation tactics I’ve seen
The Table Thumper: [preceded by a loud bang on the table] “This is outrageous and not what we’d agreed!” This bullying negotiator will use emotion and anger to overwhelm you. They want you to doubt your own memory of what was agreed and cave in.
The Low-Baller: “Your services aren’t worth anywhere near £50,000, you’re deluded. The most we’re going to pay is $30,000. Take it or leave it, I’m busy.” This is a classic negotiation-anchoring technique, rather than what they’re ultimately prepared to pay.
The Deadline Maker: “We close our supplier shortlist at 9.30am tomorrow, you’d better sharpen your pencils if you want to be in with a chance.” Deadlines can force you to make irrational choices. They may be artificial or real.
The Last-Minute Chipper AKA the ‘Columbo Negotiator’: “Ooh, just before you leave, there’s just one more thing...” You think you’re close to the finish line, so you’ll accept anything to get it done.
These techniques are carefully designed to get an emotional reaction from you. Those emotions will derail you and enable your counterparty to claim more value.
What can you do to counter these tactics?
A lot of the time you can address these techniques simply by ‘naming the game’ in your head or out loud. Once people have been found out once, they’re unlikely to try it again.
Here’s some practical counter-tactics:
The Table Thumper: Counter with facts. Respond with something like: “It looks like we’ve got a communication problem, let me clarify what we agreed and when...”
The Low-Baller: Be knowledgeable about the true market rates. Understand the ROI and clarify the scope of your offer. Your goal is to re-anchor the discussions based around your deep expertise and market knowledge.
The Deadline Maker: Try this: “In order to meet your deadline, our response won’t represent a fully negotiated commercial offer. Price is only one variable on the table. It needs to be negotiated in the context of other important commercial terms. This all takes time.”
The Last-Minute Chipper: When your counterparty starts demanding 20% off at the last minute, say: “It looks as though your budget has been cut by 20%, is that correct? Let’s see what we can do to reduce the scope to reflect that.” If they continue to push, you could say: “It looks like you’re trying to chip me at the last minute, is that what this is? Let’s take a step back and re-look at the ROI. Let’s remember what it is that we’re both trying to achieve here.”
There are many other ways to deal with these aggressive negotiation tactics. Hopefully, these illustrations start to show you how to get things back on track.
There are two big lessons to be learnt:
You have to spot the aggressive negotiator and name the game. Confronting the behavior can be tough, but you can choose to be subtle. If you don’t want to call it out upfront, you could simply ask them to repeat themselves – because you surely can’t have heard them correctly.
‘The prepared mind wins the day.’ Think about all the things that may happen in advance of the negotiation. Then write down and rehearse your responses.
Alternatively, you could decide to act more like Logan Roy from Succession, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
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