Negotiation Challenge Tactics and ploys

The World's largest library of tactics!

Well, it will be!
Click the button marked "Click me" to reveal some hidden text, and read the key to learn how the tactics are classified.
Below the three explanatory cards are the first instalment in the library of tactics and ploys. You can search the library in one of two ways.
  1. You can enter a search term in the field marked "Enter search term"
  2. You can click on the purple filter box and select a tag

Let me know if you want to suggest some other tactics that you would you like added by contacting me here.

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    • Absent Authority
      Procurement want to go to tender
      The purpose of this tactic is …to discourage you from negotiating about an issue.
      • "Head office won't let us" or "it is not company policy" are common statements heard when the other party wants to take an issue off the negotiation agenda
      • The tactic diminishes the other party's capacity to even discuss a topic
      • This has the effect of preserving the other party's personal credibility while ensuring that they get what they want, since the party with authority to agree to what you want are absent.
      • They are typically "in New York" "on the top floor" or "at head office". Never named or present.

      If this tactic is used on you
      • When setting the agenda with the other party, make sure that the stakeholders at the table have authority to negotiate what is on the agenda
      • If the person with authority is "in New York", "on the top floor" or "at head office" arrange for them to be available on videoconference or phone in

      Try to avoid the other party offering to act as your intermediary, as they can easily say "I checked for you and they still said 'no!'"
    • Bridging
      When placing a marker, the other party gives a range rather than a single value
      The purpose of this tactic is …to allow the other party to claim an illusory 'win' (especially when it is used deliberately)
      • As an example, a salesperson seeks a price rise of 3%. The salesperson bridges when placing their marker, asking for "5%-10%"
      • The client negotiates down from 5%, and the salesperson rewards the client.
      • "I was after 10%, but you got me down to 3%. A good deal for you!"
      • Bridging is poor practice, and so it may be used inadvertently by inexperienced negotiators

      If this tactic is used on you…
      make a judgment whether the other party is using the tactic deliberately or are they simply not experienced?
      • 10% is double 5%, so the other party may be posturing. Evaluate whether they are competent or not from other behaviours
      • For example, you would not ask "how can you justify 10%?" as you are inviting the other party to persuade you that 10% is appropriate
      • When planning a negotiation, decide your own objectives and any markers that support our 'wow' objective
      • Be prepared to support your marker so that it can be defended
      • The use of a range is poor practice, as you are unlikely to achieve the end of the range that is least attractive to the other party.
      • If the other party bridges, they may be poor negotiators or they may be manipulative. Try to avoid valuing the deal in terms of the process, rather than the outcome.

      Try to avoid bridging yourself at all costs.
      • If you want 10%, ask for it!
      • If you must give a range, make the scale of the range small ("9% to 11%")
      • Do not legitimise the other party's offer that is least attractive for you
    • Flinch
      The other party reacts with strong verbal or non-verbal signals to your proposal. Also see Out of your Depth.
      The purpose of this tactic is …to signal to the opposite party that what they have said is unreasonable, unacceptable, or both.
      • Like an actor 'overacting', you are left in no doubt by raised eyebrows, open mouths or head shaking that what has just been said is unacceptable.
      • This may be reinforced by verbal cues; "are you serious?"
      • This may be observed as 'sticker shock' when one party places a marker

      If this tactic is used on you…
      recognise that the other party may be trying to exploit the fact that non-verbal signals are at least as powerful as verbal signals. You may be being manipulated!
      • In negotiation planning 'pressure test' your approach and any positions that you choose to adopt
      • This will help you rationalise why they are legitimate
      • Propose negotiation protocols at the start of a negotiation, including the importance of negotiating in 'good faith', without the use of game playing
      • Consider a time out if you feel uncomfortable

      Try to avoid the other party making you feel unreasonable. Their reaction is a matter for them.
    • Mantra
      The other party repeats their position over and over again using exactly the same language. Also called 'broken record'
      The purpose of this tactic is …to wear you down.
      • Repetition of the same phrase is intended to annoy you to the point where you don’t want to hear the phrase again, so you give up.
      • The repetition is designed to enhance the fact that there is no prospect of flexibility.
      • "We are not an insurance company" was said to me by the lawyer of a professional services company to decline to accept liability for their services beyond the value of their fee.
      • "We are not an insurance company". "We are not an insurance company".

      If this tactic is used on you…start counting the number of times the phrase is used.
      • Place a dot on a piece of paper each time the phrase is used.
      • After five instances, you might say the count out loud to let the other party know that you know what is happening. Smile with full eye contact
      • Active listening may also help
      • Summarise the other party's point in different words, and then use a linking word ('however', or 'and', not 'but') and restate your needs before proposing a solution.
      • "I understand that you are not an insurance company, and we are relying upon your expertise to avoid damaging our business. How about you indemnify us to the value of five times your fee?"
      Try to avoid the other party wearing you down so you simply give up. And don't get irritated. That's the other party's goal.
    • Nibble
      The other party raises a new issue just when you had thought everything had been agreed. Sometimes called 'Just one more thing'
      The purpose of this tactic is …to extract yet more value from the other party on the grounds that they will be reluctant to jeopardise the whole deal for the sake of conceding one last issue.
      • "The warranty…can we make it three years, instead of one? It would be a shame to walk away from the deal over two years of warranty!"
      • One party tries to extract a small concession after the 'deal' was substantially completed.
      • The challenge is that if the other party grants the concession, will there be another nibble?

      If this tactic is used on you…just say 'no!'. If you concede on this issue, who is to say there is not another issue that will be raised?
      • When setting the agenda with the other party try to 'fish' for what matters to them. If they did not raise this issue previously, ask them why they have raised it now.
      • Consider reciprocating requesting a series of small concessions yourself.
      • Avoid giving something away without getting something back
      Try to avoid making a small concession without getting something back. If it works the first time, what's to stop the other party from having another nibble? And then another one?
    • Onus transfer
      The other party is asked "what would you need to persuade you to do 'x'?"
      The purpose of this tactic is …to open a dialogue about an extreme demand.
      • Instead of offering 'y' in return for 'x', and then negotiating about 'y', the tactic reverses the onus.
      • The onus is placed on the other party to tell us what they would need to agree to 'x'.
      • We can then decide if the other party's shopping list is 'do-able', and select those shopping list items that we can concede on, and agree to them

      If this tactic is used on you…be clear about your limits.
      • It is possible that they will decline to even open a dialogue about 'x'
      • Respond with "what can you agree to?"
      • If you can't agree to 'x', say so in as few words as possible. "We cant even discuss that".
      • We may use this tactic to find out the other party's shopping list.
      Try to avoid the other party meeting some of your shopping list, but not all, and then claiming that you are being unreasonable.
    • Package Deal
      A multi element deal is presented as a single package, a 'one-stop shop' or 'full-service option'. Any attempt to deconstruct the package is resisted.
      The purpose of this tactic is …threefold.
      1. The seller has a standard market offering which is a bundle, and the sales team do not have authority to 'unbundle' the offer
      2. The package includes some attractive elements and some less attractive elements, and the package aims to stop the buyer from only choosing the attractive elements
      3. The packaging aims to stop the buyer from using Salami Slice or other price based tactics and allows the seller to hide margin and/or avoid price benchmarking

      If this tactic is used on you…consider making a counter proposal for a the package minus the options that you don’t want.
      • Another option is to estimate the cost of the unwanted elements to the other party, and reduce them from the package price, as these elements have little or no value to you.
      • Another option is to negotiate a 'buy back' price for the unwanted elements.
      • If the seller doesn't want them back, why would you want them?
      Try to avoid becoming fixated on a breakdown. If the package is not good value, but you have no alternative, you may have to accept the package deal.
    • Russian Front
      Two alternatives are presented, one of which is so unpalatable that the other party will naturally choose the other.
      The purpose of this tactic is …to present a binary choice which has been 'rigged' to ensure that one option will be selected, as it is less unpalatable than the other.
      • The origin is in the Second World War, when a German soldier is told he is to be posted to the Western Front. "But that is certain death!" "Ok..." replied the officer, "we can send you to the Russian Front".
      • The soldier thinks for a moment and responds "Which part of the Western Front did you have in mind?"
      • Unlike the military context, we often have more than two choices, and the tactic may involve a false binary.

      If this tactic is used on you…challenge the other party whether there are really only two options.
      • If you are offered a binary choice, explore whether these are really the only options available to you.
      • You might use this tactic when you want to trigger the other party into accepting something you want, while appearing to offer them a choice. Be careful!
      Try to avoid manipulative tactics in co-operative relationships
    • Split The Difference
      While negotiating, the other party proposes that a gap between the party's positions may be closed by splitting the difference between the parties.
      The purpose of this tactic is …to reach agreement in a way that has the appearance of fairness.
      • If we want the other party to pay a price of $100, and they want to pay no more than $80, it can appear that a proposal to settle at $90 is "fair".
      • Each party concedes the same amount, so this must be a "win:win" outcome?
      • The answer to that question depends upon the legitimacy of each party's original positions.
      • An obvious question to ask is 'if the other party is prepared to pay $90 now, why did they say they would pay no more than $80?'
      • Neither party gets what (they said) they wanted.
      • A weak method of securing movement, but may work as a last resort

      If this tactic is used on you…
      recognise that if the other party proposes splitting the difference before they have used an other persuasion methods, this may suggest that their initial position was a negotiating ploy.
      • As an example, if they had adopted a negotiating position of $90, and then proposed splitting the difference, the outcome would have been an agreement at $95.
      • The other party claimed $5 of value, merely by adopting a more extreme opening position!
      • Splitting the difference does not have to be 50/50
      Try to avoid splitting the difference other than as a last resort.
      • Recognise that its use favours the party who adopts the most extreme opening position.
      • Make sure your negotiation objectives are rational and defensible.
    • Thank and Bank
      When the other party moves and makes a concession, it is good practice to acknowledge the movement and take ownership of the concession, (even if it is not exactly what you want). Coined by Tom Beasor
      The purpose of this tactic is … to lubricate movement.
      • Even if the other party's concession is not what you are looking for, the use of a phrase that takes ownership of the concession ("That's a start!", "Thank you!") is an alternative to phrases that explicitly reject the concession, like "That's not what I'm looking for!"
      • The goal is to harvest the value that crosses the table, rather than reject it.
      • If you asked for 100 and the other party offers 50, you are better off starting from 50 than from zero.
      • The tactic seeks to 'bank' the 50 and then ask for more; "That's a start; what else can you do?"

      If this tactic is used on you…reciprocate. The other party is trying to lubricate movement
      • In planning for movement we need to motivate the other party to move.
      • If the other party makes a concession and we deride it, diminish it, or explicitly reject it ("That’s not what I'm looking for!") we are demotivating the other party.
      • Better to recognise their flexibility and encourage them to carry on!
      Try to avoid contemptuous language or negative non-verbal signals when the other party makes a movement that is part-way towards our objectives.