Why A Missing Person May Be A Negotiator’s Best Friend

When Somebody Isn't There, They Control The Negotiations
When Somebody Isn’t There, They Control The Negotiations

Is it possible that a person who is not present at a negotiation could be the one person who controls how the negotiation turns out? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, turns out to be an unequivocal yes! If you want to make this negotiating technique work for you (and learn how to defend against it), we’re going to have to have a talk…

What Is The Missing Person Authority Tactic?

In order for a sales negotiation to wrap up, you always need a person on your side of the table to approve the final deal. Once you’ve got all of the details worked out, the final step in the process is for the deal to be presented to this person in order to get their stamp of approval.

The missing person tactic occurs when after all of the negotiations have wrapped up, this very important person is nowhere to be found. If they can’t be found, they can’t sign off on the deal that has been reached. This means that things go into a weird sort of suspend animation while everyone waits for that person to reappear.

How Can You Use A Missing Person To Your Advantage?

The power associated with this tactic comes from the simple fact that all that waiting can play havoc with the other side of the table. As the days slip away, the simple fact that they are so tantalizingly close to having a completed deal starts to eat at them.

Soon they start to become desperate to close the deal. As they search for ways to move things to a close, they start to offer to make additional concessions. Perhaps small concessions in the beginning, but these can become much larger offers as time moves on. Although they are giving something up by making these offers, they view it as a last ditch effort to salvage a deal that seems to be slipping away.

The secret to the missing person tactic is that more often than not, the person with final approval authority really isn’t missing. Instead they just didn’t want to sign the deal as it originally stood. By making themselves “unavailable” they were able to ratchet up the pressure on the other side of the table and improve the quality of the deal that was finally presented to them.

How Can You Defend Against The Missing Person Tactic?

Hopefully you can see how powerful the missing person tactic can be. This does bring up the awkward question about what you should do if you find yourself in a situation where this tactic is being used against you.

Clearly you can’t stop someone from employing the missing person tactic against you; however, you can change how you and your firm react to it. The reason that this tactic is so successful is that it uses time to cause you to do things that you normally would not do.

When you find yourself being subjected to this tactic, the #1 thing that you need to do, and do quickly, is to let everyone at your company understand what is happening. You need to let them know that the negotiations have gone into a sort of “hold mode” and that they will remain there until the other side of the table decides to move things forward.

Your best defense is to do nothing. By not allowing the passage of time to get to you, you’ll take away the power that this tactic gives to the other side of the table. Eventually they’ll have to either make the missing person available to approve the deal or they’ll have to come back to the table and open up negotiations once again.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of negotiating is filled with different ways to bend the other side of the table to your way of thinking. The missing person tactic is a classic way of doing this.

By ensuring that a person who is required to approve any deal that is made becomes “unavailable”, you have the ability to put pressure on the other side of the table. As time drags on they’ll become more and more desperate to close the deal. This is when they will start to make more concessions just to wrap things up. You need to be careful to not fall into the same trap when this tactic is applied to you.

Time is a constant factor in any sales negotiation. Using the missing person tactic allows you to harness the power of time and make it work for you. As with all tactics, you need to be careful when and how you use this approach. Done wisely, and the missing person may turn out to be the most important member of your negotiating team!

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

Question For You: What do you think would be the right “trigger” that would cause you to start to use the missing person tactic?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I love to negotiate. Give me an objective, sit me down across the table from somebody who has what I want and let me at them. However, as gung-ho as I am, there are times that I run out of new things to say. I’ve said it all. What should I do next?