The Role That Physical Intimidation Plays In Negotiations

by drjim on May 18, 2012

What are you going to do when it becomes clear that the other side wants to fight?

What are you going to do when it becomes clear that the other side wants to fight?

During a negotiation, you’d hope that we’d all be adults about it. Right? Well it doesn’t always turn out that way. Using either physical or environmental means to intimidate the other side is a negotiation styles or negotiating techniques that the other side of the table may use as a common negotiating technique. You need to be aware of this before a negotiation starts so that you can come up with a way to deal with it.

Physical Intimidation During A Negotiation

Unless your sales negotiation process is taking place in some dark back alley, you wouldn’t think that physical intimidation would play a role in a modern sales negotiation. Turns out that you’d be wrong more often than not.

Please keep in mind that if you take a look at the negotiation definition, you’ll see that a sales negotiation is all about power – who has it and who doesn’t. One way that the other side of the table can gain power during your next negotiation is to make you feel physically threatened.

Now I’m not saying that they’ll jump you in the parking lot before you show up to negotiate, although that might do the trick. Instead, physical intimidation can take on a lot of different, more subtle forms that you need to be aware of.

The first way that the other side may try to physically intimidate you is through their lead negotiator. Is this person physically large? How close to you are they sitting? Do they swing their hands a lot during the negotiation in a way that causes them to come close to you?

The next level of physical intimidation is associated with who is on the other side’s team. How many people do they have – having an excessively large negotiating team is a form of physical intimidation. Are there members of their team who don’t seem to play any role? Do these people spend their time just staring at you or members of your team? Remember, their role is probably to throw you off of your negotiating game and cause power to transfer to the other team.

Environmental Intimidation During A Negotiation

As though physical intimidation wasn’t enough, another tactic that may be employed by the other side during a sales negotiation is environmental intimidation. This happens when the other side manipulates the negotiating environment in order to make it harder for you to focus on the negotiations.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to increase the temperature in the negotiating room. If you show up for a negation wearing a suit and discover the other side sitting there in short sleeved shirts with no jacket on, you can pretty much assume that they are planning on cranking the heat during the meeting.

Another approach is to lock the door in which you are conducting your negotiations. This is a meaningless gesture, but it can cause a dramatic distraction for your team during the negotiations.

Finally, sitting your team on the side of a negotiating table that faces large windows in which the sun will either be rising or setting can cause you discomfort and distract you from the deal that is being hammered out.

What All Of This Means For You

It’s a fact of life that when the other side of the table is thinking about how they can get the best deal out of their next negotiation with you, they may decide to use either physical or environmental intimidation tactics to get their way. No matter what is being negotiated, you need to come prepared for this.

Physical intimidation does not require the other side to actually assault you. This type of tactic will work for the other side if you even think that you may be at a physical risk during the negotiations. Environmental intimidation tactics can also be subtle – you may just feel uncomfortable during the negotiations and not know why.

Whenever you find either of these tactics being used against you, you need to take action. The other side can’t get the deal that they are looking for if you don’t participate in the negotiations and so you can control the level of intimidation. Treat the negotiation as a principled negotiation and cause the other side to halt the intimidation and address the issue before you’ll agree to continue negotiating. This way you’ll be showing them who’s really the boss.

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

Question For You: If you discover that you are being intimidated, should you walk out of the negotiations?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

During sales negotiations, how do you try to appear to the other side of the table? Tough? Impartial? Unmoved? All of these terms describe how we traditionally view a negotiator. However, it turns out that sometimes the other side of the table uses a type of emotional intimidation as one of their negotiation styles or negotiating techniques in order to try to get their way. This can take the form of yelling or crying, but the goal is always the same: to get you to give in!

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