Five Ways That Negotiators Can Deal With Tough Customers

by drjim on November 13, 2015

Negotiators need to know how to deal with tough customers

Negotiators need to know how to deal with tough customers
Image Credit: European Wind Energy Association

In a negotiation if you want to be successful, you are going to have to quickly size up the other side of the table. There will be times that you discover that you are negotiating with someone who has decided to play it tough with you. Ok, there’s not that much that you can do about their decision. However, how you react to a tough negotiating opponent can have a big impact on how this negotiation turns out.

No Simple Solutions

When you are dealing with a tough customer, they will often suggest that instead of taking the time to negotiate a compromise in order to close a gap between your two positions that you just go ahead and split the difference. Don’t do this. What you need to keep in mind is that you are looking for a reasonable deal, not necessarily a simple deal. The simple deal may not meet the economic and other goals that you are trying to get out of this negotiation. Take your time and do it right.

Swap Small Issues For Big Issues

Tit-for-tat is never a good negotiating goal. When you are dealing with a tough customer you are going to want to forgo this and instead focus on the importance of each concession that you get from the other side. Walking away with the best deal is what is important. The number of concessions that you have to make really does not matter.

Deadlines Are Your Friend

When you are dealing with someone who has decided to play it tough with you, you’ll discover that deadlines can work to your advantage. Set a deadline that you know that they’ll have considerable difficulty meeting and you just may discover that you now have leverage over the other side even if they are playing the role of tough guy.

It’s All About Taking Your Time

You need to understand what the other side wants to get out of the negotiation: a deal. Based on this knowledge, you can use it to your advantage. Use your patience to take your time. Doing this will make your position stronger than the other side’s. One way that you can slow things down is by being stingy with the concessions that you are willing to give to the other side. All of this is going to work to make the other side become more anxious to reach a deal with you. This will help you to overcome their tough attitude.

What All Of This Means For You

When you discover that the party that you are going to be negotiating with has decided to adopt a tough attitude, you are going to need to adapt your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to deal with this. You can be successful, you just need to know how.

You’ll need to be careful to not accept offers to resolve gaps in the principled negotiation that appear to be too simple. You don’t have to keep track of how many concessions you’ve made in order to maintain parity. Just make sure that you are getting concessions the issues that are the most important to you. You can use deadlines to put the squeeze on the other side and then you can take your time in order to make the other side more willing to make concessions to you.

The reason that the other side of the table decided to adopt a tough attitude was because they thought that they could use it to force you to agree to deal that may have not been in your best interest. Using the tactics that we’ve discussed, you can turn the tables on them and cause their tough attitude to work in your favor.

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

Question For You: What should you do if the other side can’t meet your deadline?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When I’m working with negotiators who are trying to develop their negotiating skills, I’m often asked what it takes to reach the next level in negotiating. You know, the level where it all seems to come very naturally and easily to the negotiator. My answer is always the same: nobody ever really reaches that level, instead they all just look like things are going that smoothly. However, there is one thing that you can develop that will help you to appear as though you are operating on a higher level in your next negotiation: your instincts.

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