Everyone has had to deal with a manipulative salesperson at some point in their careers or business journey. And probably everyone hates it. It’s the cliche of what’s bad about the business world. So how do you prevent yourself from being victim to the manipulative tactics of these salespeople as you go forward and purchase the services you need to purchase?
This Negotiation Countermeasures Guide by ThunderQuote helps you to stand your ground against salespeople whom you feel are pressing you too hard, or overstepping the boundaries.
First up, it is important to understand what exactly manipulative sales tactics constitute.
Manipulative sales or negotiation tactics are commonplace and varied, but tend to fall into five key groups:
- Extreme starting offers (Highball offer)
- Creating a false sense of urgency (Buy now or lose out…)
- Last minute demands (Just one more thing…)
- Good cop / bad cop tactics (He doesn’t support you but I care about you…)
- Isolating issues during negotiations (Not related, we can’t give you any concessions for that…)
Sample Of An Aggressive / Manipulative Negotiation
Having listed out the tactics, let’s see how they come into play during a sample negotiation.
- You are trying to purchase, for example, an IT system / Mobile App for your company
- The sales team that comes to see you seems like a legitimate, reliable company. You want to hire them as they have the strongest portfolio and track record of performance. However, you soon realise this particular sales team is very aggressive with their negotiation tactics.
- After requirements gathering, the salesperson quotes you a price that is 200-300% above the market rate (How do you check the market rate? Use the ThunderQuote Pricing Guide for Mobile Apps, or the specific guide for the type of service you are looking for) – HIGHBALL OFFER
- You are shocked, after checking the pricing guide, you challenge them about it. One salesperson becomes aggressive and angry, while the other seems to be conciliatory and understands why you would feel it might be expensive. The first one continues to rant about how customers can be unreasonable and don’t appreciate the quality and reliability that companies deliver. The second one is constantly friendly and understanding and says that if you find it expensive, he can help you speak to the right people in the firm and do what he can. – GOOD COP / BAD COP
- When you continue negotiations, you realise that you can combine several parts of the service contract and purchase perhaps more segments. You ask for a 5% concession in one segment, but are rebuffed with “this is a separate issue and we have to charge full price for it because of X” – ISOLATING ISSUES
- When you are still deliberating over the contract due to the terms that don’t seem very favourable for you, the salesperson claims that they are going to be full up next month, so if you wish to engage them, you need to make a decision soon. Otherwise you’d be forced to engage a much weaker vendor and risk project failure. – CREATING A FALSE SENSE OF URGENCY
- You’ve now worked out all the issues together with them, and are happy with the deal so far. You are ready to sign the contract. However, right before they produce the contract, they say that there is an extra requirement for you, or extra ‘minor’ cost that you have to undertake, and would that be ok? It turns out that the majority of negotiators would make concessions to a last minute demand such as this. – LAST MINUTE DEMAND
- The negotiation concludes, and you reflect on all the aggressive negotiation / sales tactics you’ve just witnessed.
Note that in some cases, the sales team might be justified in bringing up issues, in other cases these can constitute manipulative sales / negotiation tactics. In order to identify which it is, you should get them to present the true facts and proof of the case to you (where possible).
Now that you understand what kind of sales or negotiation tactics are manipulative, you can begin to understand the ways by which they can then be countered. Each kind of negotiation tactic relies on generating a certain kind of power dynamic in the relationship between you and the salesperson or negotiator.
Generally the tactic forces a kind of power shift from you to the salesperson, or increases the general urgency of the situation, forcing you to make decisions too quick and risking errors in judgement. These are exactly what they want.
So how do you ensure that your interests are well protected?
The Parry: Block The Tactic
These steps will help you have a framework by which you can deal with each of the manipulative negotiation tactics:
- Counter extreme starting offers by presenting clear market rate data and benchmarks from price guides and information from industry experts
- Ask for proof and reasons for urgency to prevent yourself from being rushed. Evaluate whether the deadline imposed is legitimate. If you do not believe their reasons and do not have much risk, then stand firm
- Refuse last minute demands in principle, 80% of the time a denied last minute demand will not break the deal
- Be aware of good cop and bad cop tactics and focus on your own interests by writing them down beforehand
- Insist on negotiating all the issues at once, and do not agree to any single thing until everything has been settled together
These allow you as the purchaser to handle the specific tactic that was used against you, you’ve now restored the power balance to a relatively neutral position. However, you are still at a disadvantage because you have been put on the defensive in these negotiations, reducing the momentum of your case and allowing the salesperson to continue to attempt aggressive tactics against you.
The Riposte: Take Back The Initiative
Generally the playbook from where focuses on one of two general directions. The first is to temporarily withdraw from the negotiations in order to prepare a stronger position over a longer period, and the second is to rapidly push back by making the salesperson understand that you hold the decision power and the project will proceed when the organisation is ready, and at the terms the organisation is satisfied with. Make crystal clear that you will not be rushed.
Temporary Withdrawal And Consolidation
To retreat is sometimes the wisest course, so if you feel that you need time consolidating your position to get on the front foot:
- First, ask to pause the meeting and continue at a later date.
- Back in the office, break down the specific issues on which you are dissatisfied.
- Around those issues, prepare primary and secondary data which helps you to justify your position. Examples of these include industry benchmarks, market pricing data, standard offerings, or quotes from other vendors.
- Ensure that you have a clear narrative prepared and that you pre-empt any major thrusts from the sales team.
- Measure your own BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement), and if you lack alternatives, build up some alternatives to a done deal and communicate it with them.
If you want to immediately regain momentum in the negotiation, use these steps:
- In an immediate counterpush, you have to have prepared materials and be energetic enough to aggressively regain the initiative. You first begin by calling a halt the the negotiation, and then asking a series of questions getting them to justify why they like your company as a client, why they want to work with you or why they feel they should work for you
- Understand what is important to the other party, and give them small concessions there while pushing hard for the issues you value more
- State your commitment to making the deal work, as long as they are willing to show their sincerity through win-win arrangements
- Give strong, clear reasons backed by data for every one of your requests
- Show them other cases where your requests were accepted to build social proof
- At the end, give them a choice to walk away if they want to- leave them the autonomy to decide if they want the deal
Hopefully, this Negotiation Countermeasures Guide by ThunderQuote will help you stand your ground in your dealings with negotiators or salespeople, and enable more balanced win-win situations to arise, and a better procurement experience for everyone involved.
It is always best that everyone approach the table with an attitude of mutual respect and trust, and refrain from using aggressive tactics to gain a short term advantage, which would endanger a possible beneficial and long term relationship for the years to come.
ThunderQuote is the “Gebiz for businesses” and most comprehensive business services portal in Singapore, Australia and ASEAN , where hundreds of thousands of dollars of procurement contracts are sourced every month by major companies like Singapore Press Holdings, National Trade Union Congress and more.