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6 Negotiating Tactics That Actual Professionals Use

#3. The Higher Authority

With this tactic, at some point during the negotiations one party will declare that they don't have the authority to make a deal at such-and-such a price and have to check with someone more senior. This is another favorite of car salesmen, typically expressed in the form of "I'll have to check with my manager." Here's William H. Macy working it like an old pro in Fargo:

This tactic serves two purposes. First, it slows the negotiation down, with the assumption that the other side will fatigue and eventually accept a worse deal, as discussed above. Second, it allows the point negotiator to remain the good guy. We are always more willing to do favors and be accommodating to people we like, and if we like the guy across the table from us (because it's his boss saying no, not him), then we're more likely to eventually let the poor guy have his way.

How to Counter It:

In business contexts, if someone tries this, you basically just stop negotiations until you're dealing with someone with actual authority to negotiate. You can try the same when buying cars, although you're unlikely to actually meet the manager, or even to deter the tactic from being used.

andresrimaging/iStock/Getty Images
"No, you can't see him. Only I can see him. He hovers in the air and whispers secrets to me."

More fundamentally, this is again a matter of fatigue, and to fully counter it, you'll need to develop your negotiation endurance. Ideally, you want to make the other guy the one who just wants to get the deal over with. So clear your calendar for the day, stay hydrated, and remember that an extra hour of your time is probably worth a few hundred dollars.

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Even if that hour is spent staring at this guy.

#2. Know What Your BATNA Is

The best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is essentially what you would get if the negotiation falls apart. If at any point during the negotiation you feel you're not going to get a deal better than your BATNA, you'd walk away. And if you can get something better than your BATNA, you'd probably take it. Understanding your BATNA, and having a good idea what the other guy's BATNA is, is probably the single most important thing you can bring to the table.

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Well, that and your props.

For example, let's say you're selling your Jet Ski to some dude.

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This dude.

If you've had lots of interest from other parties about this Jet Ski, that means that if your negotiation with John-Jim here falls apart, you can always try to sell it to the next guy, or the guy after that, and you'll eventually get something pretty close to the fair market price for it. Your BATNA then is the fair market price for that Jet Ski, minus however valuable your time is (because it will take longer to sell it). If Ted-Tom here offers something way less than that, you can tell him to take a hike and still come out ahead.

CREATISTA/iStock/Getty Images
"I will give you one thousand kisses for it."

But if there's no one else interested in your Jet Ski, thus effectively giving it a fair market price of "zero," you'd be better off taking whatever offer Bruce-Bruce here gives you.

CREATISTA/iStock/Getty Images
"Now hold still. One. Two. Three ..."

How to Counter It:

This is all prep work. Do your research on both your own and the other party's position and come to the table prepared. You'll also benefit if the other party doesn't know your BATNA, and you can try dropping hints that would skew the other party's perception of your position, although that's usually pretty transparent.

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"If you don't want it, I've got three other people coming by tonight to look at it."

#1. The Late Nibble

One sneaky, hate-filled tactic occurs when a negotiation is seemingly settled and one party tries to reopen an issue that has already been agreed upon, or add on "one more thing." This is called a nibble, and it's essentially just another play on fatigue, one party cynically hoping that the other will say "fine, whatever," just to get the deal over with.

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"I will gladly bite off one of my fingers just to get you out of my face."

How to Counter It:

Call this one out. If the nibble was actually something of value to the other party, they'd have brought it up long before. Mention that reasoning to them using your most childish, sing-songy voice.

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"This leveraged buyout has no take-backsies."

Also, if they had agreed on a price prior to attempting this extra nibble, that price is almost certainly better than their BATNA. So threaten to walk out if they don't remove the nibble. This is one time you can be pretty confident that the deal on the table is better than no deal at all for them, which is the best possible time to make a threat to walk out.

Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images
"This is small ball bullshit, and I will walk out of here right now if you don't remove that clause."
"OK, fine."
"And dance for me! I will walk out of here right now if you don't dance like a pretty, pretty boy for me."


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and has danced like a pretty, pretty boy to close a couple deals. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to receive more of his wisdom.

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