'Playing hardball' a key negotiating tack.
Given the current economic conditions, customers and clients are probably going to be more likely to "play hardball" this year when it comes to the purchase of services and products. What's the best corporate strategy for negotiating in this difficult terrain?
Roger Dawson, a business negotiator and author of The Secrets of Power Negotiating, has some advice that executives can share with their sales forces, purchasing agents and other employees who might come in contact with disgruntled customers. A sampling of Dawson's negotiating tips includes:
Never say yes to their first offer. When salespeople do so, they automatically trigger two reactions in the buyer's mind--we could have done better, or something must be wrong.
Ask for more than you expect to get. Henry Kissinger called this "the key to success at the bargaining table." It's deceptively simple, but there are many profound reasons for doing it: you might just get what you're asking for, it creates some negotiating room and it raises the perceived value of your product or service.
Flinch at the other side's proposal. This is the number one mistake that poor negotiators make. Always react with shock and surprise, that they would have the nerve to ask for such a concession.
Play the reluctant buyer. When negotiating with a supplier, squeeze the seller's negotiating range by listening carefully to the proposal and ask all the questions you can think of, telling them you appreciate their time but it's not exactly what you want, and call back at the last minute and ask what their lowest price would be.
Never offer to split the difference. Instead, try to get the other side to offer to split the difference. If they do, reluctantly agree to their proposal, which services their perception that they won.
If asked for a small concession, ask for something in return. A customer might say to you, "Can you deliver at 7:30 Monday morning? Yes, but what will you do for me. Often, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the size of the concession. More importantly, it stops them from constantly grinding to get more.
In conclusion, Dawson says, business executives should embrace one overarching rule: nothing affects the bottom line of a company more than the ability of its people to negotiate well, both on the buying side and the selling side.