Sales Negotiators Should Always Have Limited Authority – Or Else!

Sales Negotiators Who Have Authority Limits Can Use This To Their Advantage
Sales Negotiators Who Have Authority Limits Can Use This To Their Advantage

Do you run the world yet? I’m going to guess that the answer is no (if it isn’t, then we need to talk). When we talk about being successful in a sales negotiation, we often spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we can get more negotiating power on our side. However, sometimes NOT having negotiating power can work to our benefit…

If you are in charge, then the other side can always pressure you to make a decision because they know that you are the ultimate decision making authority. However, if you don’t have the ability to make the final decision, if you instead have limited authority, then there can be a number of benefits:

  1. Gives you the ability to say no gracefully if needed.
  2. Gives you room to back off and assess your position.
  3. Give you the ability to go check with experts.
  4. Give you the right to review the evidence.
  5. Give you the ability to take the time to look for mistakes.
  6. Gives you the time that you need to read the fine print.
  7. Gives you the ability to bring up undefined questions.
  8. Gives you the ability to write a better argument.
  9. Gives you the right to coordinate the decision.
  10. Gives you the ability to move the negotiation away from an unacceptable position.

As you can see from this list, what some would see as disadvantages during a negotiation can also be seen as advantages. Keep in mind that it’s really how you make use of something that determines if it is an advantage or a disadvantage.

The negotiation experts are often split when it comes to what types of limits on authority are more valuable than others. However, Dr. Karrass believes that the best kind of limits on your authority are statutory or administrative limits. The other side will quickly understand that you are faced with these types of limits and in fact may enter the negations with the expectations that you have these limits.

Next in line comes dollar limits (managers can sign off on so much, Directors so much more, and VPs even more). The other side may be least receptive to hearing that you are dealing with people limits because these often seem to be things that you should be able to work through.

One thing that you are going to have to keep in mind is just how willing the other side is going to be to deal with you despite the limits on your authority. You may find that corporate policy limits are the ones that cause the most problems during a negotiation because they can be the most difficult limits to either change or circumvent.

There are a great number of different types of authority limits that you may be faced with during any given negotiation. The specific details of the negotiation will define the limits that are placed on you. No matter what limits are present, they can generally be placed in one or more common “buckets”:

  • Money limits
  • Term limits
  • Policy limits
  • Legal limits
  • Design limits
  • Group approval limits

In the end, when you find yourself in a negotiation with a number of limits placed on you, take a moment to understand how you can use these limits to boost your negotiating power.

Have you entered a sales negotiation with limits on your authority? Did you see this as a disadvantage or as an advantage? How did that negotiation turn out? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.