Combating dirty tricks in sales negotiations

In most B2B sales both the account executive and the customer are interested in achieving a win/win result because the relationship is one that has existed and will continue to exist in the future.  So attempting to gain some short-term advantage, particularly by trickery, does not make a lot sense for either side.

Successful Sales Negotiation

However, from time to time there are exceptions to the rule.  In some cases the exception is by intent, while in others it is because the person considers the action to be a negotiation tactic – not a dirty trick.

But in the end a dirty trick is a dirty trick so it makes good sense to know one when you run into one and to know how to handle it.  Let’s take a look at some of the “better” ones.

By the way, the reason for taking a look is so we can be aware and counter the trick not so we can master the trick.

Just….one more thing!

Trick. After everything has been tied down in the negotiation and it’s now time to close the deal, one party says – “Before we wrap this up there is just one more little thing we need.”  The temptation is since it’s a done deal what is just one more little thing – so you toss it in.  Sometimes the “one more thing” comment pops up again after the first one – this time with an apology.

Counter. Establish up-front that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.

Ok……. but I’ve got to check with higher authority!

Trick. After having reached an agreement, one party says …

“Good what we just agreed to sounds great, I think this whole thing looks good – but as you probably know I just need to clear our concessions with my boss.”  Of course the boss, who might not even be involved, says they need a couple more things before wrapping everything up.

Counter. The best counter strategy for this one is to prevent it from occurring in the first place by verifying the level of authority before the negotiation is started.

Surely…you can at least agree to …

Trick. Here the idea is to start with a series of high ball requests you know the other side cannot agreed to, so they have to say no a number of times and then say – “will at least if you are serious you can agree to this small concession.”  The idea is to make the other side seem unreasonable and then request something that is less but is still substantial.

Counter. The answer is to know what is reasonable and what isn’t and if the other party starts with a way out concession – call them on in.  Stop the trick before it gets started.

In addition to these tricks, there are take-offs on the old standbys such as: phony facts, false deadlines, and the old good cop/bad cop play.

Although these tricks seem straight forward, they can be very subtle and effective if carried out skillfully as part of a complex sale.  It is also important to recognize that some times these things occur and they are not tricks – for example, there could be some real reason for a tight deadline.

Most of these tricks can be easily handled as long as you are aware when what is being said is in fact a trick.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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3 Responses to Combating dirty tricks in sales negotiations

  1. U L Mehta says:

    Hello Dr. Ruff,

    Thanks for these very interesting, useful and practical tips. The subject and approach to sales negotiation is quite wide, and we need full guidance on it.

    After researching 35,000 sales calls, you and your team had developed a sound sales process … SPIN Selling … for face-to face selling.
    In a similar manner, have you developed a sound and complete process for sales negotiations? I would request information on such a negotiation process.


    U L Mehta

    • Richard Ruff says:

      Thanks for the comment and interest. Not everyone remembers the research – since those days I started Sales Horizons to design a new portfolio of sales training products one of which is negotiation – if you check out the sales training connection blog you will find a couple more articles that outline our thinking on negotiation. If you wanted to discuss, drop us an e-mail (on blog site) – happy to share what we have learned on negotiation.


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