What If There Was No “What If” Negotiation Tactic?

by drjim on January 13, 2009

The "what If" Negotiating Tactic Is A Powerful Way To Get More Information

The "What If" Negotiating Tactic Is A Powerful Way To Get More Information

During a negotiation, there often arise cases where we’d really like to get the seller to give us information that they really don’t want to give to us. If only there was some way to test the other side’s willingness to settle with us. Oh, and if there was a way to also “zero in” on the seller’s lowest selling price, this would be nice also.

It turns out that such a tactic does exist – it’s called (what else) the “what if” tactic. An example of how you’d use this tactic would be if you were buying blue widgets from someone.

You’d ask the seller to give you a quote for 100, 1000, 10000, and 20000 blue widgets (sorta like asking “what if I was to buy…”). Once you have a response to your request for bids, you’ll have lots of information about their pricing scheme, any setup charges, learning experiences, and production costs.

The “what if” tactic is very powerful when used correctly. In order to help you get the most out of this tactic, here are several suggestions that can help you get information during a negotiation:

  1. What if we change the specifications?
  2. What if we change when the work is actually done?
  3. What if we buy more items than just the ones being negotiated?
  4. What if we provide the required materials?
  5. What if we increase / decrease the warranty period?
  6. What if we increase the quantity?
  7. What if we agree to a longer contract?

Now all of these suggestions are great news if you are trying to buy something. But what if you are the one doing the selling? In negotiations, everything is an opportunity.

Once you hear the buyer starting to ask “what if” type questions, you should start to be on alert to what might be coming next. Here are several ways that the seller can react to the  “what if” tactic:

  • Don’t come up with new prices “off the cuff”. Take time to plan your prices carefully.
  • Realize that not every “what if” question actually needs to be answered. You can avoid answering these types of questions by using responses such as “they won’t”, “we can’t”, or “that will be very expensive”.
  • Use the buyer’s deadline to avoid answering a “what if” question. Tell the other side that in order to answer one of their “what if” questions will require more time than they have available to negotiate.
  • If you offer a concession, then make it contingent on you receiving their order immediately.

The selling party has a counter tactic called “would you consider” which can be used in response to “what if” questions. Both of these tactics can open new negotiating possibilities that may help both parties move towards a successful solution.

Have you ever used the “what if tactic” during a registration? Did it work for you? Have you ever had this tactic used on you during a negotiation? How did you respond to it? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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