How “The Switch” Can Trip Up Even The Best Negotiator

by drjim on July 20, 2012

Watch what the other side says and then does

Watch what the other side says and then does

Thank goodness that negotiation is over! All of the use of different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques is now done. Finally, you’ve been able to reach an agreement with the other side of the table and you even shook hands on the deal that you’ve negotiated. Your job is done. Or is it? It turns out that if the other side decides to try to do a switch on you, then your job may just be starting…

What Is “The Switch”

The purpose of any negotiation process is to create a deal that both sides of the table can live with. After lengthy discussions, you may believe that you’ve been able to do this. However, the key thing to keep in mind is that the verbal agreement that you have with the other side, or even any scribbled notes that both sides have made, are not the final agreement.

The final agreement will be a separate document that will be created after everyone has left the negotiating table. This is where things can get weird.

One of the two parties that participated in the negotiations will be charged with creating the document that describes the agreement that has been reached. No matter what they say that they’ll put into that document, you are going to have to double check it.

“The switch” tactic occurs when the other side changes a word or an idea that is captured in the final contract from what was agreed to during the negotiations. This change can be subtle – maybe just a word here or a word there. However, the impact can be enormous – the entire deal may turn out differently.

How Can You Protect Yourself From “The Switch”

Sometimes a switch is a just a simple wording mistake – but most of the time it is done on purpose. This happens more often than I would care to admit and so you are going to have to take action to protect yourself from it.

First off, you need to understand that assuming that the agreement that you reached with the other side of the table is what has been recorded in the contract that has been presented to you is a dangerous assumption on your part. Instead, you should always assume that when you are handed a contract that it does not accurately represent the agreement that had been reached.

You need to allocated the time that it is going to take in order to do a complete review of the contract. Being rushed or not having the time that it will take to do this job correctly is what will come back to haunt you later on. Having the mindset that there is probably something wrong in the contract and having the time to find it is what will save you from falling victim to “the switch”.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Just when you are at your weakest, the negotiation is finally over and you are exhausted, the other side may try to pull “the switch” on you. This means that, as in life, the negotiation definition tells us that a negotiation is not over until it’s over.

A switch occurs when the other side is not practicing a principled negotiation and does not live up to what they agreed to – they try to change the terms of the deal without you noticing it. You need to assume that this may happen and you need to very carefully read all documents that are created after the deal has been struck.

The switch technique only works because negotiators make mistakes. We don’t read the documents that we should be reading. Make sure that this doesn’t happen to you. Take the time to read everything that is created even after you’ve shaken hands with the other side. This will allow you to sleep soundly at night!

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

Question For You: If the other side does try to pull a “switch” on you, what do you think would be the best way to respond?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever given any thought to just exactly what happens after you’ve used your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to negotiate the other side of the table down to the lowest price possible? I mean sure, you walk away from the negotiating table with a sense of accomplishment, but what happens next?

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