How to Respond Effectively When Buyers Resort to These 5 Obnoxious Negotiating Tactics
Get over the shock, figure out what's really going on and respond calmly.
You’ve been working with a buyer for months. You’ve had multiple meetings, developed a great relationship, answered their objections and now, you’re hoping it will be smooth sailing as you look to close the sale. Then, you enter the sales negotiation stage.
Unfortunately, not all buyers come to negotiations in partner mode, wanting to work collaboratively with you. Instead, some buyers take a more positional approach. They either want to get the price reduced or get more from you for less. Some buyers will go to great lengths to get everything in their favor, and their tactics are more cringe worthy than others.
Here are five obnoxious buyer tactics and how you can respond.
1. Temper tantrum.
You’ve been negotiating for a while and are stuck working through problems. You make an offer, and the buyer says, “Ok, this is crazy. That’s insulting. I’ve had enough of this!” They get up and slam the door.
Sometimes a temper tantrum is an orchestrated reaction to price or a specific term in the proposal in order to evoke a response from you.
If this happens to you, don’t get rattled. Remain professional, and don’t take the bait. Suggest taking a short break. You can help the buyer save face by acknowledging how important the negotiated issue is for everyone involved.
Then, use a white board and illustrate the key points, and get back to the objectives and possibilities. If their objection was just a price concession request, say no. When you do so, you set a boundary. Meanwhile, keep working on solutions and move on as if the temper tantrum didn’t happen.
2. Theater of the absurd.
Imagine you say, “For this solution set over a 12-month period, that will be $320,000.” The buyer’s response is, “I don’t think so. It should be $40,000 max.”
With this tactic, the buyer asks for a lot, knowing it’s absurd, hoping to then appear reasonable by lowering demands that are still, actually, unreasonable. In this situation, you need to reverse direction. Respond immediately, and call their bluff. They had a big reaction, you have one back. Say something like, “Let me ask you, if you were me, how would you react to that?” or “What do you suppose my VP will say if I even entertained this discussion?”
Reverse direction by giving them an example of why what they’re asking for is silly.
3. Selective memory.
With this tactic, the buyer conveniently forgets what they agreed to. This is why you should keep and share notes after negotiation discussions. Make sure your documentation is good, and you can avoid the issue altogether.
If this occurs multiple times, call them out on it. Say something like, “We seem to keep backing away from things we’ve already agreed to. What can we do moving forward to ensure this doesn’t happen again?” Then bring the conversation back to objectives and possibilities.
4. Good cop, bad cop.
With this tactic, the buyer introduces a “bad cop” later in discussions to pressure price, change the agreement, reopen closed issues and so on. Your best response to this tactic is to bring your own bad cop to even the playing field.
Don’t blink or look intimidated. Most importantly, don’t cave. Stick to objectives, possibilities, requirements and alternatives, and focus on outcomes. Often times, buyers try to wear you down with time and pressure. Don’t cave. Make sure you stay present, and don’t rush.
5. One last thing.
You’ve spent the last four months negotiating a major deal and are ready to sign the agreement. It’s close to your reservation price, but still manages to squeeze in above your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).
The buyer sends you an email that reads, “Attached is the signed contract. There’s just one last thing we wrote into the contract and initialed -- we need to put no money down, and not send the deposit as you noted. We’ll start paying in 120 days.”
“One last thing” is a tricky tactic. It catches the seller at their most vulnerable point and uses eagerness to get the deal done to wring out final concessions.
To address this tactic, you need to ask yourself whether the “one last thing” jeopardizes the agreement. What problems does it introduce, if any? Are you willing to play what roughly equates to a game of chicken with a buyer? Ask questions and suggest a trade offer unless the ask is truly insignificant.
Sometimes, it’s not a game. Your buyer may be forced by company policy to say this, and may be stuck if you don’t agree.
In any case, you need to analyze the reasons, consequences and implications, then re-engage the discussion with the buyer. Remind them that the process to get final agreement includes flexibility on both sides.
As a seller, you’re going to face various types of buyer tactics. Some are more common than others and some are more challenging than others. Sellers who prepare for these types of scenarios are less likely to cave during negotiations. Buyers have been conditioned to respond in specifics ways. Your job is to uncover what’s really going on and respond appropriately.
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