In the sales profession, not everyone you interact with will be an ethical negotiator. And a difference in standards can potentially cause serious problems in the negotiation process. Some people enter negotiations with no interest in forging mutually beneficial agreements. These types are only interested in getting what's good for them, and they don't mind abusing other people in the process; they play hard ball. So if someone won't meet you on your level, you need defense tactics that will keep you from getting steamrolled.
When you meet with someone at the bargaining table who doesn't want to play fair, you can protect yourself without trickery or manipulation. Use the four following defense tactics to prevent an unethical negotiator from swindling you out of a mutually beneficial sales agreement:
Defense Tactic #1: Maintain Your Standards
If a person approaches negotiations aggressively out of ignorance, you may be able to win them over eventually. Most people don't really want to make enemies; they just fear being cheated. If you can demonstrate to them that you're interested in a fair deal, they will usually drop the aggressive routine and work with you.
But never compromise your own standards, even when tempted by an unscrupulous counterpart. Keep in mind the saying, “When you fight with a pig, you both get dirty – but the pig likes it.” In other words, even if you win, you've lost by stooping to their lower level. So maintain your own high standards; and if the other side refuses to play by the same rules, you may need to try the next tactic.
Defense Tactic #2: Don't Fight Back Directly
Fighting with others is always difficult and usually less productive than working together to produce an acceptable agreement. When you're pitted face-to-face with an aggressive counterpart, don't resist their attack by being belligerent or aggressive in return. If they insist on their position, don't counterattack with yours. Try asking them, “Why do you feel that's the only option?” or “How do you think that will affect me?” By asking them to provide an honest explanation for why their offer is the best solution for both parties, you make them rethink their position.
When your negotiating counterparts attack your position or your ideas, ask for more specific input. Ask them to explain exactly what they don't like about your offer. By inviting their criticism, you force them into working with you.
Another important point to keep in mind is that you're a human being and you deserve to be treated like one. More often than not, if you refuse to play by their aggressive rules, they'll eventually back down.
Defense Tactic #3: Call in a Third-Party Arbitrator
Negotiation situations rarely get to the point where a third party is needed because one side refuses to play fair. But you may encounter a situation where you need a completely impartial person with no links to either side of the negotiation to guide the process.
The benefit of bringing in a third party is that they can shift the negotiations from positional bargaining to interest-based bargaining. By viewing all sides objectively, the party can plan agreements that take into account everyone's interests and help prevent one side from manipulating the other. Ideally, two sides should be able to overcome differences, but a third party involvement is the best option when progress becomes impossible.
Defense Tactic #4: Bail Out
When you can't persuade your counterparts to negotiate honestly and openly, and a third party mediator doesn't help, then abandon the negotiations, at least temporarily. Sometimes deals aren't meant to be made, but you can also strengthen your position by walking away from the bargaining table. And sometimes, both parties need to reconsider what they really want and what they are willing to give. Certainly, walking away is a drastic last resort measure, but sometimes it's the only way to get your counterpart to play fair. And the way you walk out also makes a difference in the result you produce.
For example, if you say, “I need more time to think this over,” or “I need to consult with my superior,” you imply that you'll consider your counterpart's position. This tactic works well if you're dealing with people who negotiate in good faith. It gives you more time to plan a new strategy and gather additional information. But if you're dealing with a negotiations shark, then saying you need more time is tantamount to raising a white flag. You send a message that says, “I realize that my only option is to go with your proposal.” Then when you return to the bargaining table, your position is very weak.
On the other hand, if you withdraw by saying, “Let me know if you decide to take my offer,” that's like saying, “This is my offer, take it or leave it.” This statement effectively ends the negotiation process and lets your counterpart know that they have no choice but to take your offer.
Another option for walking out would be to say something like, “Obviously we're getting nowhere. Let's take some time to rethink things and if either of us comes up with a new idea we can meet again.” With this method, either party can call another meeting without weakening their position. And most important, you leave your options open.
Using Your Defenses
Negotiations can be a complex process, even under the best circumstances. But dealing with an unethical counterpart can be impossible if you don't know and use your defenses. When you maintain your high negotiating standards and protect yourself by not directly fighting back, you help to maintain a mature level of communication at the bargaining table. If that doesn't work, you may need to call in a third party mediator to oversee the process. And keep in mind that you can always bail out as a last resort.
When you use these four defense tactics against an unethical negotiator, you can protect yourself and your interests, and successfully reach more beneficial sales agreements.