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That's negotiating two on one, which is not good, but you go ahead
and everything appears to be going along fine. You feel that you have a good chance
of closing the sale, until the president suddenly starts getting irritated. Eventually
he says to his vice president, "Look, I don't think these people are interested
in making a serious proposal to us. I'm sorry, but I've got things to do."
Then he storms out of the room.
This really shakes you up if you're not
used to negotiating. Then the vice-president says, "Wow. Sometimes he gets
that way, but I really like the plan that you presented, and I think we can still
work this out. If you could be a little more flexible on your price, then I think
we can still put it together. Tell you what-why don't you let me see what I can
do for you with him?"
If you don't realize what they're doing to you,
you'll hear yourself say something like, "What do you think the president
would agree to?" Then it won't be long before you'll have the vice-president
negotiating for you-and he or she is not even on your side.
If you think
I'm exaggerating on this one, consider this: Haven't you, at one time or another,
said to a car salesperson, "What do you think you could get your sales manager
to agree to?" As if the salesperson is on your side, not on theirs? Haven't
we all at one time been buying real estate and have found the property we want
to buy, so we say to the agent that has been helping us find the property, "What
do you think the sellers would take?" Let me ask you something. Who is your
agent working for? Who is paying her? It's not you, is it? She is working for
the seller and yet she has effectively played Good Guy/Bad Guy with us. So, look
out for it, because you run into it a lot.
Power Negotiators use several
Counter-Gambits to Good Guy/Bad Guy:
- The first Counter-Gambit is simply
to identify the Gambit. Although there are many other ways to handle the problem,
this one is so effective that it's probably the only one you need to know. Good
Guy/Bad Guy is so well known that it embarrasses people when they get caught using
it. When you notice the other person using it you should smile and say, "Oh,
come on-you aren't going to play Good Guy/Bad Guy with me are you? Come on, sit
down, let's work this thing out." Usually their embarrassment will cause
them to retreat from the position.
- You could respond by creating
a bad guy of your own. Tell them that you'd love to do what they want, but you
have people back in the head office who are obsessed with sticking to the program.
You can always make a fictitious bad guy appear more unyielding than a bad guy
who is present at the negotiation.
- You could go over their heads
to their supervisor. For example, if you're dealing with a buyer and head buyer
at a distributorship, you might call the owner of the distributorship and say,
"Your people were playing Good Guy/Bad Guy with me. You don't approve of
that kind of thing, do you?" (Always be cautious about going over someone's
head. The strategy can easily backfire because of the bad feelings it can cause.)
just letting the bad guy talk resolves the problem, especially if he's being obnoxious.
Eventually his own people will get tired of hearing it and tell him to knock it
- You can counter Good Guy/Bad Guy by saying to the Good Guy,
"Look, I understand what you two are doing to me. From now on anything that
he says, I'm going to attribute to you also." Now you have two bad guys to
deal with, so it diffuses the Gambit. Sometimes just identifying them both in
your own mind as bad guys will handle it, without you having to come out and accuse
- If the other side shows up with an attorney or controller
who is clearly there to play bad guy, jump right in and forestall their role.
Say to them, "I'm sure you're here to play bad guy, but let's not take that
approach. I'm as eager to find a solution to this situation as you are, so why
don't we all take a win-win approach. Fair enough?" This really takes the
wind out of their sails.
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Copyright © 2002 Roger Dawson
© 2002, The Negotiator Magazine