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Get the Dirt

Be on the lookout for these sleazy negotiation tactics.

Don't be surprised if your opponent tries to play you. Be wary of these dirty tricks:

  • Good cop, bad cop: It ain't just bad television: That unctuous floor salesman can't give an inch without consulting his ogre of a manager. Or you shake on it with one vice president, only to have the deal rejected by a faceless higher-up.
  • Remember: Good cop and bad cop are one unit. Negotiate directly with the bad cop, or with the two of them together. That'll eliminate the "shield" they give each other. You could try to pit them against each other, or just call them on it. They'll probably fold like a lawn chair.

  • The meaningless concession: Your opponent has to put a little feeling into this one to make you believe that he's really giving you something that's not only important, but that represents a good-faith sacrifice.
  • Never let your opponents guilt you into submission because they're "bending over backward." Instead, put yourself in their shoes, and ask: How much are they really giving me?

  • Trust me: When you hear "trust me" at the bargaining table, do the opposite.


  • Bad faith: Some will use negotiation as a fishing expedition, as a strategic distraction or to embroil you in their madness. Thus, negotiation in and of itself becomes a dark and dirty deed. Always keep your wits about you. As Shakespeare wrote, "Let every eye negotiate for itself."
A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.

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This article was originally published in the January 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get the Dirt.

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