How Would You Negotiate If You Had No Authority…?

by drjim on May 13, 2011

Sometimes Having No Authority Is The Most Powerful Position

Sometimes Having No Authority Is The Most Powerful Position

When we talk about what it takes to be successful in your next sales negotiation, we often talk about how much authority you can bring to your side of the table. Your basic goal needs to be to show up to the negotiation with as much authority as you can bring – you are “the man” as they say. You can make decisions, cut deals, and even make concessions. You can do whatever it takes to make a deal happen. It turns out that we may have gotten this all wrong – maybe what we should be doing is showing up with no authority…

Why Having No Authority Is A Good Thing (Sometimes)

I can’t tell you how refreshing it can be to have absolutely no authority whatsoever when you are involved in a negotiation. This is often a good situation to be in when you are negotiating on the behalf of others.

If you had authority, then the other side of the table would reasonably be able to expect you to negotiate with them. Part of this would involve you giving in to some of their demands. Since you have no authority, you really can’t do this.

We encounter negotiators who have no authority all the time. Think of the last time you went to the supermarket. If you decided that US$3.00 was too much to pay for bananas, then could you corner a supermarket employee and try to bargain with them? No way – they don’t have the authority to lower the price of bananas.

How To Use Your Lack Of Authority

Instead of thinking about your lack of authority as being a handicap, try to view it as what it is: a powerful negotiating tool. What’s going on here is that when you have no authority, you get to play a different role in the negotiation.

I would argue that most car salesmen play the “no authority” role. They are able to present you with the car and they can even add and remove standard option packages in order to help you configure the car of your dreams.

However, when it comes time to talk price, they are pretty much helpless. They can ask you all sorts of questions about why you don’t think that the stated price is a fair price for the car. They can work with you to understand how much you can pay for a car. However, what they can’t do is agree to lower the price of the car.

The only person who can do that is the car dealership manager. The car salesman who has no authority over the car’s price simply acts as a conduit to the manager. He’ll take your price request up the line and come back and tell you what the decision was.

By not having full authority to make decisions, the car salesman is able to collect the information that is needed by the car dealership. Although it may seem as though he doesn’t have any negotiating power, he might actually have all the power that he needs!

What All Of This Means For You

All too often, when we think about how we want to prepare for our next negotiation, we attempt to gather as much authority for ourselves as possible. However, sometimes showing up with no authority can work in your favor.

When you or someone that you send negotiates from a position of no authority, they can’t give in. When they can’t make concessions, then all they can do is provide information to the other side of the table. Additionally, they can act as information gatherers for you so that you’ll know what the other side is trying to get out of the negotiations.

Realizing that sometimes less is more means that you have a new negotiating tool. Every negotiation needs to be evaluated before you start discussions and if the situation calls for it, feel free to show up empty handed.

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should spend negotiating when you don’t have any authority?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Power, power, power – sales negotiations are all about who has the most power, right? Well, no – sometimes it’s about who doesn’t have the power. A case in point is when you find yourself in a situation where you have limited authority – your hands are tied. It turns out that that there are four ways that you can both be limited in your authority while at the same time gaining more power in the negotiations. I’m going to tell you how to do this…

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