6 Things A Sales Negotiator Needs To Know About Using Threats During A Negotiation

Sometimes during a negotiation, your bark has to be as bad as your bite
Sometimes during a negotiation, your bark has to be as bad as your bite

Who doesn’t like to use a threat during sales negotiations every so often? Threats are yet another one of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we can use. It’s like a big stick that you can haul out and set on the table. There it sits, out where everyone can see it and the other side of the table knows what you could do with it if you wanted to. It turns out that that big stick has some consequences that you need to be aware of.

Threats Are Not Without Consequences

Every negotiation that you are involved in will have the possibility of at least one threat involved in it. Give it some thought – every negotiation has the possibility of ending in deadlock as one possible outcome – that’s a threat!

When you decide to use a threat of either taking or not taking some action, you need to understand that with a threat comes both intended and unintended consequences. What makes a threat really powerful is if the other side decides that they will either gain or lose by believing your threat.

6 Things That You Need To Know About Using Threats In Negotiations

If you aren’t careful, the use of threats during your next negotiation can result in hostility. Not only that, but they can also result in unintended consequences for you. Because threats are such a tricky weapon to use, here are 6 things that you need to know in order to use threats correctly:


  • Credibility Counts: Your threats won’t have any impact on the other side if you aren’t going to be seen as being willing to carry them out. We see this all the time around us when we see parents making big threats that they have no intention of ever carrying out to their children in order to get them to behave.



  • The Threat Has To Match The Issue: We’re talking about proportionality here. The threat has to match what is being negotiated. If you are trying to get the other side to agree to a small request, then don’t use a huge threat to nudge them to give in.



  • No Threats Without Backing: Make sure that your organization is going to back you up on your threat. If the other side of the table knows that they can just go around you and get what they want, then your threat has no teeth.



  • Threats Linger: Before you use a threat, you need to realize that a threat can linger as part of the negotiation process long after you use it. The other side of the table may become angry at having been threatened and may be looking for ways to get revenge later on in the negotiations.



  • Threats Change Relationships: If you have a preexisting relationship with the other side of the table, using threats may forever change that relationship. You need to evaluate whether it’s going to be worth it to use the threat.



  • Threats Can Get Away From You: Once you’ve made a threat during a negotiation, you can’t take it back. A threat that has been released into the wild can easily get away from you and may get out of control. How the other side reacts to your threat may be far beyond what you had anticipated.


What All Of This Means For You

Threats are a part of every sales negotiation no matter if we want them to be or not. They should almost be part of the negotiation definition. They have a role to play even in a principled negotiation. The key thing that every negotiator needs to realize is that threats have consequences that you need to be aware of.

If you make the decision to use a threat during your next negotiation, then you need to take certain precautions. These include being credible, making your threats proportional, making sure that you have backing, and understanding that the use of threats has long-term consequences.

In order to be a successful negotiator, we need to be able to make use of every negotiating tool that is available to us. This can include the use of threats. Keep in mind that as powerful as a threat may be, threats do come with some significant consequences that you need to be aware of. Keep these in mind and you’ll have yet another powerful tool at your disposal.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way to determine if you have the backing of your company before you start making threats during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

There you are in your next sales negotiation and everything is flying along nicely. All of a sudden, wham! The other side goes and suddenly threatens you with something if you don’t do or agree to one of their demands. Oh, oh – that “Dummy’s Guide To Negotiating” book that you read last month didn’t cover this situation. What’s a negotiator to do now?