How Negotiators Should Deal With Dirty Tricks: Escalation

by drjim on June 1, 2012

Don't let the other side of the table trip you up

Don’t let the other side of the table trip you up

Just how badly are you going to want to reach a deal during your next negotiation? Be very careful how you answer that question! It turns out that the other side may be able to maneuver you into a position where you’ll be willing to accept a deal that you really shouldn’t. “I’d never do that” you say. Well, yes, you problem would – if the other side escalated.

What Is Escalation?

Before you can defend against it, you must first know exactly what escalation is. An escalation is one of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that is often used during while something is being negotiated. An escalation occurs when the other side decides that they want to wear you down in order to get you to make concessions that you normally wouldn’t make.

As an example of how this works, let’s pretend that you are going to sell your car for US$10,000. Someone comes to you and says that they’d be willing to buy it from you, but first they’d like to take a test drive. So you go with them on a drive. Then they say that they need to get their wife’s permission to buy the car. You say ok and you wait a couple of days. The buyer shows up with his wife and says that she wants to go for a test drive. You go for another test drive. He says that he thinks that he heard a strange noise and he’d like his mechanic to look at the car before he buys it. You take the car to his mechanic and wait an hour while it gets checked out.

After all of this has occurred, the buyer says that he’s ready to buy your car and he hands you a check for $9,000. You say that the price is $10,000, but he says that $9,000 is all that he has right now. You give in and sell him the car for $9,000.

What’s just happened is that the escalation technique has caused you to make a concession on the car’s price. You were so heavily invested in selling the car to this person because of all of the time that you had spent to make the deal happen that the fact that he wasn’t going to pay you the full price wasn’t enough to cause you to cancel the deal.

How Can You Defend Against Escalation?

When used correctly, the escalation technique is very effective. You’ve been so worn down by the time that the technique gets used that you almost always end up giving in. There has got to be a way to defend yourself against this technique during negotiations.

It turns out that there is. The best way for you to defend yourself against this tacit is to call the other side’s bluff when they pull the tactic. They are expecting you to give in because you have so much time and effort already invested in making a deal happen. However, often times what they don’t realize is that they have at least as much time and effort invested. If you call their bluff, then there’s a good chance that they’ll back down and you’ll get your full price.

In order to prevent the possibility of the other side trying to pull this tactic on you during the negotiation process, you need to take steps to prevent it even as the negotiations are starting. One way to do this is to require the other side to provide you with a big deposit that you’ll keep if a deal is not reached. Another way is to sign a memorandum of understanding that has the price in it at the start of negotiations.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

When a negotiator isn’t careful, the other side can start to play dirty tricks on them during a negotiation. These tricks can include escalation which is so common that it’s almost a part of the negotiation definition.

When the other side escalates, they maneuver you into a position where you have so much time and energy invested in the negotiations that you feel a need to reach a deal. That’s when they can start to get you to make concessions that you shouldn’t. Understand that this can happen and take steps at the beginning of the negotiations to prevent it.

The escalation maneuver is a classic dirty trick. The reason that it’s been around for so long is that it works very well. Now that you know that it exists you can deal with it as you conduct a principled negotiation. Awareness means that you’ll be prepared if the other side tries to use it on you. Make sure that you’re ready for it and this is one dirty trick that won’t work anymore.

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

Question For You: How do you think that you could detect if the other side is trying to use the escalation trick on you early on in a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You can trust the other side of the table when you are negotiating with them, right? I mean sure, we’ll all try to get a leg up during the negotiations and use as many negotiation styles and negotiating techniques as we possibly can in order to get the best deal, but once the negotiation process is over everything will be cool, right? As wise men have said, it’s not over until it’s over and this counts double for a sales negotiation…

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