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Negotiation Tactics — 42 Powerful Tactics + How to Counter Them

Negotiation tactics are always an important part of the negotiating process. It works both ways; they can be used on you and they can be used by you. However, some do not recognize it right away and fall for the tactics of the other party. 

This article will give you an overview of the most used negotiation tactics and how you can counter them in order to not be caught in the trap of the other party. 

Once you are finished reading this article, you will be able to counter the most used tactics in negotiation effectively and you will know how to drive the course of the negotiation in your direction. Thus, let us now start to check these negotiation tactics!

Tactics in Negotiation and How to Counter Them

1. Atom bomb/ Dropping the bomb

This type of tactic suggests that a failure to concede or drop a line that has been taken will lead to grave consequences. 

An example of this would be: “This may only be a small order. However, failure to agree could affect the entirety of your business.”

Counter Tactics

When this tactic is used against you, you can do the following:

  • Become very grim and just respond with “I see”
  • List down the disadvantages to them of carrying out their threat
  • List down the advantages you have if they carried out their threat
  • You can indicate to the other party that you are not overly concerned even though you both have invested a lot of time in the negotiation. You can say that it would be a shame if that were to be the case.
  • Show them that you are capable of walking away

2. Brinkmanship/Bluffing

Going right to the edge requires great skill for you to not fall over. One way is to try and get the other party to see the edge as being closer than it actually is. 

However, you must beware of bluffing. If you are going to bluff, you should be aware of what you have to do once your bluff is called. 

Counter Tactics

  • When someone uses this tactic against you, you must remain cool and calm. 
  • You may also use the counter tactic we told earlier in the “Dropping the bomb” tactic
  • You may say that if that is the case, then it would appear that it will not be possible to achieve a negotiated agreement
  • Begin to gather your things up or wait for a response

3. Back Burner/ Postpone

This tactic is used when you want to put off an item or issue that you had not planned for to a later stage in the negotiation. Giving yourself time to work out a position regarding the issue.

This tactic can be used when it appears that a particular issue is going to prevent the negotiation to continue. Proposing “let’s leave that for the moment” can stop this from happening. As the negotiation proceeds, the particular issue usually resolves itself which does not need revisiting. 

Counter Tactic

  • To counter this tactic, you may insist to the other party that it will not be possible to move on unless you can agree on the issue at hand. 

4. Hanging Gramophone Record

This tactic uses an approach wherein you repeat your demand over and over again in the negotiation. This may enable you to win because the other party gets “fed up” with your constant repetition, and feels that there will be no progress unless this obstacle is removed.

It emphasized the need for persistence in negotiation and a refusal to accept “no” at its face value.

The hanging gramophone record tactic is also used when the parties are close to an agreement, the other party will tell you that they cannot meet your price whatever they try.

This may also be reinforced by showing some form of evidence such as a memo about cost-cutting from their top management. Psychologically speaking, the printed word seems to carry more authority than spoken words. 

Counter Tactics

  • Take care not to believe everything that is shown or told to you
  • Decide if you can meet the demand
  • Decide if you still want to reach an agreement with the other party
  • Insist that if you will meet their price, you will gain some concessions in return
  • Reconfigure the negotiation for you to explore various alternatives to retain your desired position and maintain your objective in the negotiation
  • Use your own broken record tactic

    5. Building Block Technique

    This tactic can be used in various ways. You may request a price for only a part of your actual requirements and in the face-to-face negotiation request prices for various quantities up to your actual needs. Thus, the other party will give you more ground when you are raising their expectations. 

    Counter Tactics

    • Avoid giving your best prices first. Always leave room for maneuver.
    • Try finding out about the minimum and maximum order quantities in advance of quoting
    • Have clear and published price breakpoints
    • Ask about extreme cases before quoting for the “next: level of volume or contract length. 

    6. Deadlines

    This tactic can be imposed or agreed upon and can encourage parties to concentrate on creative solutions while realizing that a concession is necessary. 

    Counter Tactics

    • Make a note of the deadline
    • Always expect this to happen at some stage and even play a game with yourself to guess when they will launch it to you. 
    • Avoid further discussion. However, be a little brisker in your demeanor
    • It is their deadline and not yours. So remind them that their deadline is getting near. 

    7. Deliberate Misunderstanding 

    This tactic is used to buy time to think after a complicated proposal. Saying “could you run through that again?” will either buy you time or discourage the other party from using such complications. 

    Counter Tactics

    • Always get details that have been agreed down in writing
    • If you did not say what they insist that you have agreed upon, refuse it firmly. 
    • Reopen the negotiation on the basis that the whole deal will need to be reviewed if the extras that they want are to be included
    • No matter how urgently you need to agree on a deal, never appear flustered. 

    8. Dunce

    Undermine the other party’s faith in his case by claiming that he has done his homework diligently or that he has not been accurately briefed. 

    If this can be demonstrated it is possible to sow seeds of doubt about matters, which have been prepared and are correct. Thus, sapping confidence and producing a feeling of inferiority to the other party. 

    Be careful that you can substantiate any such challenge you make or your own credibility will suffer.

    Counter Tactics

    • Be prepared
    • Challenge them back

    9. Defense in Depth

    This tactic uses several levels of staff or management before the issue reaches its final destination. At each level, it is hoped that additional information will be obtained. This must be done carefully to not undermine your own authority. 

    Counter Tactic

    • You can prevent this at its early stages by asking whether the other party is in a position to commit the company or who else might be involved with the decision-making. 

    10. Divide and Rule

    Use this tactic when you are facing a team of negotiators on the other side. By listening and observing, you may pick up more positive or agreeable signals from a particular member. You can concentrate on them as being more reasonable and supportive.

    Counter Tactics

    • Work out your strategy as a team beforehand
    • Make sure that during the preparation, you have taken the steps to ensure that you will not fall into this trap yourself if you are leading a team negotiation. 

    11. Flinch 

    This tactic does not seem professional but flinching at a proposal or request is a good way of signaling to the other party what they have suggested is unacceptable. 

    If flinching is not your thing, then at least look astonished or even dumbstruck and say nothing. So, how do you deal with someone who flinches at you?

    Counter Tactics

    • Use silence
    • Re-state your case and keep calm and composed. 
    • Wait for a verbal response
    • Recognize that they are probably doing it deliberately. So just smile as you know it is not going to work on you

      12. Guilty Party

      This tactic makes the other party guilty by suggesting that they are breaking some code or agreement, or that they are refusing something that has already been conceded by other people. 

      Counter Tactics

      • If you are really in the wrong, then rectify it yourself
      • Bring the conversation back to a level of what is reasonable
      • Always remember the rule that nobody can make you feel guilty, we make ourselves feel guilty. 

      13. Good Guy/ Bad Guy

      This is often demonstrated on most US cop shows. In a meeting with 2 or more representatives, one may be behaving in a difficult manner, asking challenging questions and making very high demands.

      Before he loses face by having to back down, another team member takes over who is pleasant and agreeable. This obviously needs close cooperation and pre-planning between members to carry out. 

      Counter Tactics

      • Expose them for what they are doing. They know that they are trying to pressure you into conceding something so the best thing is to let them know that it is not going to work on you. 
      • Remember that they both have the same interest in mind
      • Negotiate with the good guy as if he is the bad guy. This is due to the fact that they are both guys in reality

      14. Headache

      This is an emotional appeal not to press a point and is designed to make the other party feel it would be unreasonable to do so. 

      Counter Tactics

      • Show empathy with the other party and use humor as appropriate
      • Remind them that you both need to resolve the issues at some point

      15. Joker

      This tactic suggests that the proposals made by the other party are ridiculous and cannot be taken seriously. This can be done by using phrases such as “You’ve got to be joking” or “Pull the other one.”

      Counter Tactic

      • Use the same tactic
      • Tell them that if they cannot meet your demands then there is no point in negotiating further

      16. Funny Money

      When quoting prices, suppliers may try to make what they are asking for seem trivial. Remember, every concession costs you something and not gaining your target discount on a major contract could actually amount to wiping half of your supposed profit. 

      Counter Tactics

      • Aggregate any figures into bigger timescales such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.
      • Use the tactic for yourself
      • Remember that their ‘small’ $50 per day is just short of a whopping $20,000 extra per year!

      17. Higher Authority

      This tactic states that you have to say that you do not have the authority to make a final decision at the end or at the crucial stage of the negotiation. 

      This can buy you time to consider the other party’s side and allow you to consider counter-arguments at your leisure.  On the other hand, you automatically undermine your own position for future negotiations, and may well be bypassed in the future.

      Counter Tactics

      • Always ask the question, “If we reach an agreement do you have the authority to commit your organization?”
      • Politely ask them that you should perhaps negotiate directly with someone who has the authority to make a decision. 

      18. Incorrect Summary

      This tactic summarizes the negotiation which tips the balance just in your favor. If the other party does not object at the time of the agreement, then they will appear unreasonable if they raise it later in the negotiation. 

      Counter Tactics

      • Try to be the party that takes control of both the written and oral summary of the negotiation
      • Challenge the summary immediately that does not conform with your understanding
      • Tell them that the negotiation will not progress until a clear agreement has been reached

      19. Low-Balling

      In this tactic, you are offered what seems to be a great proposition, a big discount for example, and only when you’ve agreed do you realize that there are conditions or extra supplier conditions that you did not anticipate. However, by this stage you’re semi-committed.

      Counter Tactics

      • You should not find yourself falling into this trap if you are careful in getting all variables on the table before negotiating an agreement
      • Take things slowly and do not rush to say yes to a deal that seems too good to be true


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      20. Linking Issues

      This is a very useful tactic but it needs careful planning. It is essentially a way of creating movement by establishing a link between issues, which had previously been separate.

      For example, the seller may persuade you to make a further concession that if you buy a particular model of a car, you will get serviced at that garage. 

      Counter Tactics

      • Tell them that asking for a linked deal indicates that they are feeling in a weaker position
      • Refuse to link two things if the linkage is not in your interest
      • Toughen your stance on all issues

        21. Full Disclosure

        This depends very much on the atmosphere that has been created. Both parties need to feel that they will not be exploited by the other. This is often used when negotiators are well used to dealing with each other as they have a high level of trust between themselves.

        You must take note that trust takes time to build but it can be destroyed easily. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Although you have a high level of trust, you still need to be careful. 
        • Openness is demonstrated rather than stated so beware of the person who uses phrases such as, “I’m now going to be totally open with you”, they seldom are!

        22. Let’s Do Lunch

        An informal meeting or contact can be used to test for views, positions, and sensitivities, and to meet the other person ‘off guard’.

        Counter Tactics

        • Know that there is no such thing as an informal meeting when it comes to negotiation
        • Treat every encounter as though the negotiation depends on it
        • Do not reach a formal settlement informally
        • Keep notes of what you have discussed even in informal meetings
        • Do not allow their pleasantries to make you feel obliged to make concessions

        23. Onus Transfer

        This tactic puts the onus or burden on the other party to come up with ideas. An example of this would be asking, “what must we do for you to reduce your prices?”

        Counter Tactic

        • Use the technique on the other party. Who is to say that they are right in asking you to meet their demands, and not vice versa?

        24. Mystery Man

        The implication is that some absent third party is responsible for the unpleasant point you are about to deliver, for example: “I’m only telling you what the engineers are saying” or “I’m under pressure to achieve a 5% reduction in current prices.”

        The third-party must be placed at a level where it would be difficult for the person with whom you are negotiating to make a contract. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Get them to identify with and take personal responsibility for the issue by asking if they hold the same view
        • Suggest that the issue is between you and the “unseen” person
        • Stay calm and request a break to discuss the matter with your team

        25. New Faces

        This tactic refers to a change to another team or refers to other individuals or groups.

        Counter Tactics 

        • Ask them the reason for the change
        • Bring in new faces on your own
        • Bring in your superior

        26. Physically Disturb Them

        This uses various physical non-violent movements to throw the other party off its balance. Examples are lean inventory across the table, changing the normal seating pattern, sitting close to them, and asking them not to smoke if they usually do. 

        Counter Tactics

        • If possible, try to control the room so that the other party has no intimidating options to use against you
        • For those that are more behavioral, simply laugh quietly to yourself
        • Take personal pleasure that their tactic will have no effect on you other than strengthening their own position

        27. Outrageous Behavior

        This tactic is where the other party shows shock, disgust, or annoyance at what you have suggested with the aim of forcing you to give in due to shock. 

        You must take note that this tactic can take on more subtle forms such as smirking at their colleagues, closed body language, and a derisory snort.

        Counter Tactics

        • Do not respond emotionally. Wait until the anger dies down.
        • Keep calm and express concern about the misunderstanding. Only proceed in the negotiation once the atmosphere turns to normal

        28. Personal Favor

        This tactic is an emotive stance. Emphasize the trouble you personally went to for the other party, e.g. “I had to work hard to get the engineers to even look at your product” or “I had to make special arrangements to get your invoices paid in the time you wanted.”

        Counter Tactics

        29. Red Herring

        Getting something you want by pretending you want someone else is called red herring in negotiation. An example would be a supplier will focus his/her attention on a minor issue in order to get his/her way on a major issue. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Asking why may help you expose the weakness in their demands
        • Use the same tactic against them
        • Never jump at their request and give in immediately

        30. Pre-Emptive Strike

        This forestalls any prospect of negotiation, for example: “I have an order here for twenty tons… give me a price for this product and I will put your name on it!” This can sometimes panic the other party into an agreement.

        Counter Tactics 

        • Do not react, stay calm and be rational
        • Indicate that you may be interested in talking about the situation and steer the conversation into a negotiation. Thus, bringing in a range of variables other than just price
        • If pressured for a decision on a set price you must make your decision based upon how much the deal is worth to you.

        31. Re-Escalation of Demand

        This tactic suggests that after conceding and moving towards the other party, you then find that they are unwilling to move and persist in pushing for more.

        Counter Tactics

        • Appeal for their professionalism
        • If they are not prepared to honor their word, tell them that you have moved too far and must return to your original position or beyond

        32. Recessing

        This tactic seeks an adjournment or a break to review, recalculate, or reshape the deal. New ideas may emerge if a break is taken preferably away from the stress of the actual negotiation.

        Recesses should be taken when there are some complicated computations that need to be done or the emotional temperature is rising.  

        Counter Tactic

        • None is required. 

        33. Salami

        In this tactic, you feed difficulty or bad news in thin slices, piece by piece. This usually produces concessions due to the fact that the other party wishes to get away from an increasingly uncomfortable situation.

        Counter Tactics

        • If you feel like this is occurring, stop the slippery slope at this point
        • Tell them that it will not be possible to reach an agreement without putting all the issues in full at the negotiation table.
        • Withdraw previous concessions and tell them that the new information puts the whole negotiation in a new light. Thus, the whole negotiation has to be reconsidered. 

        34. Russian Front

        In this tactic, you are presented with two options. The first one is awful that you will agree to the second option.

        Counter Tactics

        • Do not agree to their option
        • Ask for more options
        • Suggest some options of your own

        35. Hypothetical Question

        A technique that helps every conversation and thus negotiations: talk about ‘what if’.  It helps to test your own hypothesis, to determine how serious the other person is and this technique helps negotiations forward when there seems to be no more room left to move. 

        “If I were to give you this, how would you feel about doing this for me?”

        By asking this question, you’re not making a step offer-wise; you’re using words to find out the level of flexibility at the other side of the table & what it might be possible to agree upon. 

        This can be useful for checking a new idea or to help break the deadlock and matters can be discussed without the fear of commitment. If used during the exploratory/testing stage it can open up useful alternatives and help shape a deal. 

        Counter Tactic

        • None required – it is generally a good tactic, to be used by either party to arrive at the very best mutually agreed solution

        36. Why

        You should not be afraid to challenge the other party, especially at the early stage of the negotiation when positions are being defined. However, you must remember not to use it excessively as it can cause frustration and inhibit the other party from checking some other alternatives. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Be prepared to answer any challenge confidently and easily
        • Challenge back in equal measure

        37. Trojan Horse

        When some things are too good to be true, well because they are. For example, avoid following the buyer who gratefully accepted the offer of fixed prices for twelve months only to find the market price subsequently fell.

        Counter Tactics

        • Never say yes to the first offer
        • It might be tempting to take offers that seem to be attractive. However, it would be unusual if you were not able to negotiate an even better deal. 

        38. Vice

        Just like its name, this tactic is intended to pile on the pressure for the supplier to offer a lower price or a better deal. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Do not make an early negotiation concession
        • Ask them what you need to do to improve the deal. This will reveal what they really want in the negotiation
        • Use the trade-off technique

        39. Silence

        Silence is a good tactic to diffuse emotions in the negotiation. Generally, many people are uncomfortable with it. Thus, they will have the urge to fill the “silence” and when they usually do, it weakens their position. 

        Counter Tactics

        • Use the broken record tactic
        • Use even more silence in return
        • Tell them that you would appreciate a response to your last statement
        • Smile and wait for them to fill the void

        40. The ‘Journalist-trick’

        At the start of my career, I worked for a few years as a journalist. What I learned in that experience is that people gave me the best quotes after the official part walking towards the exit door when I just asked my final question.

        For example, just when the supplier is about to sign the deal, you may say something like, “and it includes this, doesn’t it?”. Always think ahead of any negotiation of two things that you can include in your last sentence and use them at the end of the negotiation. 

        The other party may give in to what you just asked at this point as they do not want to waste what you both agreed. Using this wisely can get you a little bit more out of the deal. 

        Counter Tactic

        • Be careful of agreeing instantly with whatever the other party may bring up when you are about to sign the negotiation. Keep calm and smile while thinking of an answer. 

        Negotiation Tactics: What Are They?

        Negotiation tactics are methods used by negotiators to gain an advantage in the discussion. It is often deceptive and manipulative. Thus, the reason why you need to recognize when it will be used against you. 

        These negotiation tactics will not wave at you and say “here I am, look at me.” If these tactics are obvious, then they will not be effective in the first place. Often, these tactics are self-serving to fulfill the negotiator’s goals and objectives. Therefore, it is usually detrimental to others which makes these tactics “win-lose” in nature. 

        These tactics need to be used with discretion and you have to be responsible for the outcome as some are more underhand, deceitful, devious, and even downright “dirty”. You will need to use your own professional judgment on which tactics to use and in what way you are going to use them. 

        Awareness and How You Respond is the Solution

        The first step in successfully negotiating with the other party who is using negotiation tactics is to identify what tactics it is and to be aware of what they are doing. 

        Typically, tactics depend on two things: the chances of you not knowing that you are being manipulated, and reacting in a predictable way. 

        If you identify the tactic, you are less likely to respond to it the way the other party expects you to react. Thus, gaining a degree of control in the negotiation. 

        The list that we showed you are the most used tactics in negotiation which you can write down and use in your negotiation in the future.

        Concluding Thoughts on Negotiation Tactics

        Because all tactics mentioned above can be used in inter-relational settings between people it is important to study the person you are going to negotiate with. As stated earlier – It is people who negotiate, not companies. Tactic 1 will work better on some people than tactic 2. Also, the same tactics will work differently on the same person in different circumstances or at different times.

        Do you want to learn how to counter these negotiation tactics effectively? Then enroll in our Negotiation Course For Procurement Professionals! 

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