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How to Get Your Counterpart to Bid Against Themselves

By |December 09, 2019

You may not think that it’s easy to get the other side to bid against themselves. But you’d be wrong.

When you’re selling something, there’s a price point you have in mind. At the same time, your counterpart has their own general motivations when they come to the table. They have their own number in mind—or at least a range of numbers in mind—for what they’re willing to spend. And that’s what they’re focusing on.

If you want to get your counterpart to bid against themselves, you need to keep one thing in mind: The interaction is not about you—it’s about them.

Labels can work well here. Something like, It seems like you have a number in mind, or, It sounds like you have a limit can be particularly effective for getting the other side to spill the beans.  

It’s essentially a gentle way of asking, What’s your number? without being as direct.

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The power of dynamic silence

I’ll never forget the first time I got the chance to use this approach on somebody.

He was an older guy, very analytical. I approached the situation with caution: I’m sorry—and this is probably going to sound pretty intrusive—but it sounds like you’ve put a limit on what you want to spend. (See? That’s an I’m sorry coupled with a mini accusation audit and a label. It’s an effective combo.)

He instantly responded: Yeah, that’s fair.

In retrospect, I wish I would have used more dynamic silence. When the reaction to a label is abrupt, start counting: one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand …  “yeah” is usually an indicator of “I have more to say”.  Don’t make the mistake I did years ago and cut that thought process short.  When you use thought provoking labels you need to allow time for the thought to fully develop.

Allow the other side to think. Give them room. They might not know what to say right away. But more often than not, they have thoughts in their head that they’re scared to address and might not want to share.

Letting the silence spread over them is a great way to get them to open up. In this instance, I didn’t get a number—and that’s because I didn’t wait long enough. My assertiveness kicked in, and I continued to talk.

By using these tools correctly and in concert with one another, you’ll get them to name the number first. As soon as that happens, you’re good to go.

Getting past bargaining and haggling

In many cases, smooth negotiations are something of a black swan themselves. Every now and again, you’ll run into a scenario where you get stuck.

You can overcome such an obstacle by using the four phases of no:

  • Phase 1: I really appreciate the time you spent on this. How am I supposed to do that?
  • Phase 2: I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.
  • Phase 3: I don’t know how that’s going to work for me.
  • Phase 4: No.

Notice all the personal pronouns in there. That’s intentional. You want to point the spotlight at yourself. As soon as the spotlight is shining on you, ask the other side something like this: How are you going to help me solve this problem? 

When it boils down to it, negotiation prowess comes down to this: What you say isn’t the same thing as what you imply.

For example, I can’t move on my price—you’re going to have to help me figure out how to solve this problem and I can’t offer any assistance is really, Sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.

Make the other side feel like a hero by figuring out how to make the deal go down—the way you want it to go down. Negotiation is the subtle art of allowing the other side to have your way.

Never underestimate tonality

In any negotiation, tonality is critical. Everything listed above is predicated on you being able to introduce it into the conversation with proper etiquette.  

Three guidelines to always have top of mind when using your tone properly. First avoid the assertive tone at all costs. No one likes to feel like they are being interrogated in a negotiation. Second, when you’re setting a boundary use a downward inflecting tone—also known as the late-night DJ voice. Last and most important, more often than note your are going to want to channel your inner accommodator and be as friendly as you can. When you are easy to talk to people want to speak with you.

Never forget that people don’t react to words. They react to tone. You can be direct with your words, but being direct with your tone is what causes a reaction.

From the outset, it may appear as though getting someone to bid against themselves—or at least open closer to where you’re at—is a seemingly insurmountable task.

But when you bring your negotiating toolkit with you—filled with tactics like accusation audits, dynamic silence, and labels—and deliver your ideas with a pleasant and persuasive tonality, you’re well on your way to getting the deal you have in mind.

It will take a little bit of time and undoubtedly some patience with yourself. There might be some nuance, too.

Have a plan and stick to it—and you’ll do just fine.

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