Negotiators Need To Master The Art Of Nibbling

Nibbling is how you can get more out of a deal
Nibbling is how you can get more out of a deal
Image Credit: Ludie Cochrane

So there is a very interesting question that all too often I think that we negotiators just don’t take the time to answer: when is a negotiation over? Your gut reaction is probably to say when the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques have been put away and the deal has been signed by both sides of the table. However, it turns out that although that’s an important stage, when that occurs the negotiations are by no means over yet.

The Art Of Nibbling

As a negotiator, your goal has to be to get the most out of every deal that you are involved in. The standard way that we go about doing this is to debate the various issues associated with the deal with the other side of the table. We give a bit, they give a bit and in the end we both create a deal that we can live with. That deal gets signed by both sides and then an opportunity opens up for you to get more.

The way that you go about doing this is by what we like to call “nibbling”. Nibbling is the process of asking the other side for something that goes beyond the agreement that has just been signed. You’ll want to pose your nibble as if the thing that you are requesting is really a given – both sides already planned on doing this and you are just confirming that it’s so.

It is important to understand that the process of nibbling is not considered to be an unethical practice. You need to understand the by nibbling you are not insisting that the other side do something for you, you are just making a request. Make your request in a nice way and you will have done no harm to the negotiations. Do not ask to change some part of the deal that has just been signed – that would be unethical.

How To Prevent Someone From Nibbling On You

As a negotiator, it is entirely possible that the next time that you sign a deal, the other side may not believe that the negotiations are over. Instead, they may now see it as an opportunity to start nibbling on you. The last thing that you really want to do is to give the other side anything more.

When someone start to nibble on you, you need to take defensive action. The good news is that there is an effective countermeasure that you can use against the other side when this occurs. What you are going to want to do is to put a price on their nibble.

You can go about doing this by agreeing with what they’d like you to do. However, at the end of your agreement you need to provide them with a price that they will have to pay in order to get you to do it. What you’ll often find is that their interest in having the thing done goes down dramatically if it turns out that they will have to pay for it.

What All Of This Means For You

As people who are more famous than I am like to say, “It’s not over until it’s over”. In the world of principled negotiation, this is especially true. When the deal has been put on paper and both sides have signed it, this is when you can really start pushing the other side to provide you with more.

This all has to with what we call “the art of nibbling”. When you nibble, you make a request of the other side to provide you with something that was not explicitly promised in the deal. You don’t demand it, you just request it. If someone does this to you, you can agree to do it – for a price!

Taking the time to develop your nibbling skills can have a significant payoff for your negotiating skills. It turns out that things that you might not have been able to get during the negotiations may become available to you after the deal has been signed. Develop this skill and watch as the deals that you land become even more valuable.

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

Question For You: How soon after the deal is signed do you think that the nibbling should start?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ultimately, any negotiation is about control. Who has it, who wants it, who is getting it. You want to be the one who is in control of your next negotiation no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. However, how to make that happen is always the big question. It turns out that it’s actually pretty easy to seize control of your negotiation: all you have to do is to control its pace.