Do You Mind If I "Nibble" On You?

by drjim on August 26, 2008

The nibble is a negotiating technique that allows the buyer to get just a little bit more

The nibble is a negotiating technique that allows the buyer to get just a little bit more

Ah, the things that they don’t teach us in school – like the fine art of nibbling. No, I’m not talking about the process by which you take an hour to eat a cookie by making small bites all around the outside until the whole cookie has been eaten. Instead, I’m referring to the well loved negotiating tactic (among others). In the rest of the world, nibbling is a well accepted business practice by most cultures. In the U.S. it is generally frowned upon and those who use it are viewed as being cheap. However, it works. It works quite often. Maybe we should find out more…

One of my friends, Mike, is a professional Nibbler. Awhile back I was spending a weekend with him when he decided to go out furniture shopping and so I tagged along. Mike found a breakfast room table that he really liked and after going back and forth with the sales person, he had finally reached a price that they could both agree on. Then Mike did something that was unusual. He asked the salesman to throw in the painting that was on the wall in the display area. The surprised salesman thought for a moment, and then agreed. Mike thanked him and got out his checkbook, paused, and then looking directly at the salesman said “… and do you think that we could throw in those pillows that are over on that sofa as part of this deal?” The salesman took a bit longer to answer this time. He said that he could only provide two of the four pillows as a part of the deal. Mike said that that was fine and proceeded to write out his check.

So what had Mike done here? He had gone in to buy a breakfast table and had walked out with a breakfast table, a painting, and two throw pillows. Truly he was a master Nibbler! The art of nibbling has been around since the dawn of man. The answer to the question of whether or not you should nibble in a given business situation is a matter of your judgment.

Why does Nibbling work? There are five main reasons why the nibble is such an effective negotiating technique:

  1. The other side really, really wants to close this deal.
  2. The other side has invested a lot of effort to get this far, why blow it now?
  3. The “nibble” has a small value in comparison with the value of the whole deal.
  4. You are seen as a potential repeat customer if they give in on this one small point.
  5. They want you to be left with the feeling that you got a bargain.

Beware the Invisible Nibble! Nibbles can still occur even after a deal is closed. Generally these unseen nibbles are made by buyers who end up paying their bills late, asking for special delivery options or requesting free training that was not part of the original deal.

How Do You Stop The Nibble?So what could have that furniture salesman done to stop my friend Mike from so effectively nibbling on him? Here are a few tips:

  • He could have had a published price list. Once Mike saw that he could negotiate the price of the table, everything else was up for grabs.

 

  • He could have insisted that the table was one deal and anything else would have to be another deal.
  • He could have said that he didn’t have the authority to agree to Mike’s nibble request.
  • He could have resisted the desire to give in to Mike’s requests. If he had been able to hold out just a bit longer, Mike, the nibbler, would have given up.

 

So now you have another negotiating technique to use. This one will take some guts and the inner strength to give it a try even if you know that you’ll be viewed as being cheap. Are you willing to give it a go?

Have you ever had someone try the Nibble on you? Did it work? Have you ever tried to use the Nibble? What were you buying? Did it work out for you or did you get shut down? Leave a comment and let me know.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John DeGroote November 28, 2008 at 10:54 pm

A great post on the important topic of nibbling in negotiation — thanks. I have posted a somewhat similar take on nibbling in “More Negotiation Tactics — Stop the Nibbler Before He Starts” at http://www.settlementperspectives.com/2008/11/more-negotiation-tactics-stop-the-nibbler-before-he-starts/.

I look forward to more great posts from The Accidental Negotiator–

John DeGroote

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm

John: I read your post – I like your suggestion that one of the best ways to put a stop to nibbling is to anticipate the side’s moves. What gets interesting is if they switch from being a nibbler to being something else once you do this. Are they interested in closing the deal or are they just enjoying the negotiating?

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