6 Negotiating Tactics That Actual Professionals Use

Negotiating is one of those things that many people have a serious aversion to. Whether it's a fear of confrontation, or simply the knowledge that they're weaklings who don't deserve to win, many people actively avoid situations that require negotiation, or plow through them as quickly as possible, accepting the worst possible deals in exchange for getting it over with.

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"$200,000 for a used Jetta sounds fair."

But it doesn't have to be like that. Simply by understanding the tactics actual professional negotiators use, it's possible to enter a negotiation with a little more confidence, and eventually get a better deal out of it.

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"No. We refuse to accept anything higher than 39 percent financing."

So, whether you're buying a car, asking for a raise, or trying to get free guac with a burrito, here are the actual negotiation techniques used by the pros that might be helpful in your situation.

#6. Naming the First Price

You might think you've always been told the exact opposite of this advice, especially if you've been reading tips on how to behave during a job interview, where you're likely to see some version of "Never mention your desired salary during a job interview, you colossal jackhat."

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Also, don't wear your jackhat to an interview.

But that's not a negotiation; it's an interview, and when a manager is evaluating whether to hire you for a position, you want them to consider all of your best qualities, not your base ones.

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But once they've decided that you're the one for them, or in any other context where you have something they want, that's where you enter the actual negotiation. Then, there is a serious advantage to naming the first price. This creates what's called an anchoring effect, as the price you name greatly influences all further negotiations. Some research has suggested that for every extra dollar included in an opening offer, 50 cents make it into the final agreement.

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"I'm currently on a salary of $28 million an hour, but I'm willing to come down a bit on that for this opportunity."

How to Counter It:

If someone opens with an initial price that seems far too high or low to you, you can assume the other party is anchoring, or just submitting a lowball/highball bid and not seriously negotiating. Your best counter is to actively, verbally call out what they're doing. Say that they've given you an insulting, unserious bid that isn't even worth considering.

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"So we've talked it over, and are you clowning us?"

By stating clearly that their bid isn't serious, you're making a claim that it effectively never happened, and thus you can restart the negotiations, this time with your own bid. A serious (but low) bid on your part can thus reanchor the negotiations on your turf. Or you could counter with your own unserious, ridiculously low bid, to show you're not going to be pushed around.

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"We'd like to counter with ..." -makes jerking off motion for several seconds-

#5. Changing the Subject

Negotiations don't always center on a single figure; often several different topics or figures need to be settled upon. A common negotiating tactic is to switch between different issues at specific times, like if the negotiation is stuck, or if one party feels it's going poorly for them.

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"... so no on the mustard. OK. What about the mayonnaise? Can you smear that on my bare ass and call me a dirty boy?"

A great example of this is when buying a car, which requires settling on the sales price, the down payment, the monthly payment, and the value of any trade-in. If you ever get stuck or refuse to budge on any issue while buying a car, the salespeople will quickly divert your attention to one of the other issues. They even have a very specific tool for this, called the four-square, which is just a sheet of paper divided up in four, where they walk through those four issues.

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This is basically the most complicated tool most car salespeople can operate anyways.

Let's say you refuse to budge any higher on the purchase price of a car and are about to walk out of the negotiations. That's when the salesperson bounces you over to discuss the size of the monthly payment you think you can handle, or any down payment you might have. By the time you get back around to the purchase price, you will often find you're far more willing to compromise than you were before. The reason for this is that the deeper into any negotiation you get, the more likely you are to want to finish it.

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No one wants to think they spent two hours talking to this guy unnecessarily.

How to Counter It:

Stick to one subject at a time. Using the example discussed above, you wouldn't let yourself move away from the purchase price until it was settled, or better yet, arrange financing elsewhere, and don't even mention that you have a trade-in.

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"Did you have a trade-in?"
"No, I rode here on a horse."

#4. The Fake Sticking Point

This tactic involves one party making some issue seem particularly valuable to them, even though it isn't really.

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"I would never part with my firstborn son. OK, fine, take him."

The talking up of that issue is done with the full intent of later conceding it, in the hopes that the other party, thinking it's valuable, is more likely to give up something genuinely valuable to them in exchange.

How to Counter It:

Well, you could always try simply ignoring or not giving a flying damn what's important to the other party and enter a negotiation considering only what's valuable to you. That might not be possible in some very contentious negotiations, like labor talks, where neither party can really effectively "walk away" from the table. In cases like those, where both parties might have to trade genuine concessions, the only solution is to do substantial research on the other party's position to get an idea of what is actually a painful concession to them, as well as what they could feasibly do without.

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"His name's Bryce, but feel free to change that."

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