The Negotiator Magazine

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Unethical Negotiating Gambits And How To Protect Yourself Against Them

Roger Dawson

Let me teach you the unethical gambits that people can use to get you to sweeten the deal. Unless you're so familiar with them that you spot them right away, you'll find that you will make unnecessary concessions just to get the other side to agree with your proposal. Many a salesperson has had to endure an embarrassing interview with a sales manager who can't understand why he made a concession. The salesperson tries to maintain that the only way to get the order was to make the concession. The truth was that the buyer out maneuvered the salesperson with one of these unethical gambits.

There's no point in getting upset with the person who uses these unethical Gambits. Power Negotiators remember to concentrate on the issues and think of negotiating as a game. Unless the individual is Mother Theresa, he or she is simply doing what he or she is on this planet for, which is to get the best possible deal from you. You must be skilled enough to instantly recognize these unethical gambits and smoothly counter them.

The Decoy
The other side can use the Decoy Gambit to take your attention away from what is the real issue in the negotiation.

Several years ago, an association hired me to do a seminar at John Portman's Peachtree Hotel in Atlanta. That's a Westin Hotel and a fabulous place. It's 73 stories high, one of the tallest hotels in the country and possibly the world. It's like a round tall tower with only 15 or so pie-shaped rooms on each floor.

As I walked into the hotel I was wondering what I could do to provide an illustration to the people who would be in the seminar the following day, to show how effective Power Negotiating can be. A room had been pre-arranged for me by the organization that had hired me, and I decided to see what I could do about negotiating down the price of the room. Rooms at the Peachtree then typically cost $135. They had given me a very good corporate rate of $75. Nevertheless, I determined to see what I could do and within 10 minutes got them to reduce the price of the room to $37.50.

I used the Decoy Gambit on them. They told me that they only had a twin-size room for me. If they had said they only had a full-size room, I would have asked for a twin bed, you understand. It didn't matter what it was, but I said "The association that hired me booked this room a month ahead of time. I am not going to accept a twin-size room." The desk clerk brought out the manager. He explained that they have 1,074 rooms in the hotel. Guests already occupied 1,064 of them, so they only had 10 available, and I would have to settle for a twin-size room.

So, I used the Trading Off Gambit. I said, "Well, I might be willing to settle for a twin-size room, but if I do that for you, what will you do for me?" I thought possibly they might offer a free breakfast, or something like that. However, to my amazement he said, "We might be able to adjust the price of the room a little bit. How would half price be for you?"

I said, "That would be just fine." Then, as they gave me the key to the room, the manager said, "Let me check just a moment. We may be able to do something more for you." They made a telephone call and found out that they did have a queen-size room available. Maintenance had just finished redecorating it, and they weren't sure whether they had released it yet. So, I ended up getting a $135 queen-size room for only $37.50.

The Decoy I used was that they only had twin-size rooms available, not king-sized. That wasn't the real issue at all, of course; what I wanted to accomplish was a reduced room rate. The size of the bed took their attention away from the real issue.

Watch out for people who lure you away from the real issue with the Decoy Gambit. Let's say that you sell custom made tools and dies, and your customer is insisting on accelerated shipment. Stay focused and isolate the objection. "Is that the only thing that's bothering you?" Then go to Higher Authority and Good Guy/Bad Guy: "Let's get something in writing, and I'll take it to my people and see what I can do for you with them." Then turn the tables: "We may be able to accelerate the shipment, but it's going to increase the non-recurring engineering charges."

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