How to Outsmart Your Buyer With 21 Negotiation Tactics

21 Tactics You can Use…

1. First Strike

They disrupt the very start of the meeting with something designed to shock and put you on the defensive.

When they say: Have you seen your service level for last night? It’s totally unacceptable and there will be serious repercussions.

We can respond with: We are here to talk about a new product, not service levels, important though they are. We will address any problems at the end of the meeting.

2. The Silent Treatment

They just sit there looking bored or aggressive, arms folded and not saying a word, trying to create an uncomfortable intimidating atmosphere that forces you to do all the work.

When they say: ……………

We can respond with: Have your batteries run out? Do you need a lie down?

3. The Spider’s Web

They try to confuse and trap you into a discussion that is complex, technical, and sort of makes sense but is actually made up nonsense.

When they say: I’ve looked at the price of wheat on the 3-month Baltic index and cross referenced it with the Forex price in dollars for shipments landed in November. On that basis, I calculate you are overcharging me by £2 a packet.

We can respond with:  But based on spot prices landed Harwich on a FOB basis in sterling and recognising the Brexit disruptional impact of 8.2% plus the ongoing frictional cost of labour and transportation we should actually be putting our prices up by £2 a packet.

4. The Future Promise

They try to agree on a deal that gives them what they want now in return for a vague promise of something for you down the line.

When they say: If we can agree to you investing £50,000 in category ranging then we will look to make you our exclusive category captain for the range review coming up in 18 months’ time .

We can respond with: I can see exactly what you are doing there. Why would we pay upfront for something that may not happen and even if it does it’s 18 months away. We could all be dead by then!

Two hands showing a pinky promise
The future promise buyer tactic in negotiation sets you up to be let down in the future

5. The Technical Road Block

They argue that a technical or systems change is the reason for the delay or more expense.

When they say: We’ve just implemented SAP 3.4 XF into our accounts payable system which means payments will now, unfortunately, be 2 days later. I don’t fully understand it either – it’s all technobabble I’m afraid.

We can respond with: That’s not our problem. We have a written supply agreement with you that obligates you to pay us every 45 days without delay.

Two policeman next to a road block
The road block is a Buyer Tactics in Negotiation blames technicality for a delay


6. Odd One Out

They make you feel that you are the only one left to agree and are being difficult in order to increase the pressure on you.

When they say: Every other supplier has agreed to the new cost price reductions. Why is it always you that makes my life such a hassle?!

We can respond with: We are not every other supplier and do not worry we are used to dancing alone!

Line of yellow pencil with black one sticking out
The odd one out buyer tactic in negotiation makes you feel like you are the only one to agree

7. Jumping Through Hoops

They make everything you want deliberately difficult and time-consuming by putting barriers in your way at every step.

When they say: You need to put a cost price increase request in writing, not email. We will then send you a 17 sheet justification form to complete which will then go to our cost committee for review. If this is successful you will be asked to come and present your case in front of the arbitration committee which meets every quarter.

We can respond with: We are not jumping through hoops for you. Our cost price is like your retail price – it is for us to decide. Do your shoppers ask you for justification every time you increase a price instore?

Kids in a field jumping through hoop
The jump through hoops buyer tactic in negotiation makes each step more difficult

8. My Boss Will Kill Me

They make out that they are under severe pressure from above and that their boss has already refused the deal. Intended to put up a brick wall to any concessions on their part.

When they say: I can’t agree to what you want. My boss would kill me!

We can respond with: Oh dear how awful, where shall we send the flowers?

A boss shouting at an employee
The boss will kill me buyer tactic in negotiation is designed to blame the above for pressure

9. I want to See Your Boss

They try to undermine you by making out you are too junior or too inexperienced or not empowered to negotiate with them.

When they say: You clearly have no authority to do this deal – I want to see your Boss.

We can respond with: Well, I want to see your Boss. In fact, why doesn’t my Boss see your Boss which makes us superfluous and we can go grab a beer!

Female boss in front of male employee
I want to see your boss is one of the Buyer Tactics in Negotiation and is designed to make you feel incompetent

10. The Unlevel Playing Field

They ask for something ridiculous but only concede something tiny in return.

When they say: I want a direct investment of £250,000 and fully funded promotions four times a year and in return, I will list you in 4 more stores.

We can respond with: That is totally unbalanced. For 4 more stores, we will give you £5,000 and you will have to promote out of your own margin.

Green playing field at night
The unlevel playign field is about giving more than you are receiving

11. The Big Outrageous Ask

They ask for something completely extreme and outrageous in the hope you will feel relieved when you agree to something much less – which is what they would have originally wanted!

When they say: I want 5 points extra margin, a 7% back to zero overrider paid 4 weekly, and a listing fee of £300,000 per sku.

We can respond with: Well I want a Ferrari, a 10 bedroom villa in Barbados and to live to be 130 but we don’t always get what we want do we?

Shocked man looking at paperwork
The outrageous ask is one of the Buyer Tactics in Negotiation and is designed to make you go for their smaller ask

12. Salami Slicing

Rather than the big outrageous ask, they break their wants into what seems like tiny little salami slice. But when you put them all together they become a huge great profit sausage giveaway for you!

When they say: So if we could just agree on just 1 extra days payment terms, a small 2% annual cost reduction and your overrider growth indexed against company performance with a 5% bonus for positive growth.

We can respond with: That may sound entirely reasonable but put together it’s an enormous ask from you which we will need to recover from you in extra listings and sales volume.

Slices of salami on a board
The salami tactic involves buyers breaking down their requests into ‘bite size’ bits

13. Time Pressure

Keeping you waiting before the meeting, telling you the meeting has to be cut short because of an important internal briefing and constantly looking at their watch and hurrying you up creates a sense of panic and stress which can lead to mistakes.

When they say: I only have 5 minutes, you will need to get to your proposal quickly, I’m not free for 4 weeks after today.

We can respond with: We will not be pressured by time pressure tactics. Our proposal will make you a lot of money and is worth your time and attention.

Close up of clock pointing to 7.20
Time pressure is one of the Buyer Tactics in Negotiation and is designed to pressure you

14. Meet in the Middle

Towards the end of a negotiation, they offer to split the difference or meet in the middle as a way of getting further movement out of you.

When they say: OK we are almost there let’s meet in the middle.

We can respond with: Thank you for moving your position closer to ours. We are still where we were but appreciate your movement and will now consider a counter-offer.

Cutting board with split coconut on
This tactic involves the buyer meeting you in the middle but only towards the end of the negotiation

15. Cherry Picking

They go through your proposal and only pick out the bits they want and try to ignore the things you want in return

When they say: I can agree to your revised costs and the improved overidder but additional stores and more facings will have to wait.

We can respond with: The offer was very clear and conditional. You cannot cherry-pick the bits you want otherwise the offer is withdrawn.

Young woman picks cherries in the garden
Cherry-picking is one of the Buyer Tactics in Negotiation and is when the buyer only picks the pieces of the deal that they want

16. The Canteen Meet

They say there are no meeting rooms available despite you booking the meeting 4 weeks ago. So you have to present in a busy canteen with noise and interruptions. Designed to put you off your game and make mistakes.

When they say: I’m really sorry there are no meeting rooms – it’s always a nightmare. We will have to go to the canteen.

We can respond with: Strange I checked with Reception when we arrived – they said meeting room 10 was free all day?!

Tables and chairs empty in canteen
The canteen tactic is designed to disrupt your flow

17. Deck Chairs on the Titanic

They deliberately make the environment of the room you are meeting in awkward. Perhaps it is deliberately cold, or too warm, or they don’t leave enough chairs for you, or the chairs are tiny and uncomfortable, or they sit you with the sun shining in your eyes. All designed to make you feel uncomfortable and put you off your game.

When they say: Sorry about the room it’s the best we could book.

We can respond with: No worries you should see our offices – this is luxury! 

Boats in the sea
This tactic is again designed to put you off and disrupt your flow

18. The Deliberate Mistake

They wait until you are just getting settled into your presentation before picking on a number or a statement and accusing you of making a mistake. Designed to put you off and create nervousness.

When they say: I think you will find that number is wrong.

We can respond with: I personally spent 6 hours putting this presentation together and every single word and number is totally accurate.

Young businessman is pointing to a mistake in a paper
Pointing out a mistake is designed to make you feel nervous and inadequate

19. Tea Anyone?

They offer you a drink but deliberately get the order wrong – tea for coffee or with sugar when you asked for without. Designed to confuse and disrupt you and put you off your game.

When they say: Here is your drink – we only offer drinks to our favourite suppliers.

We can respond with: I hate to think what you offer your worst suppliers then!

Woman's hands holding cup of tea
Giving you the wrong drink is another way to confuse you

20. Pleading Poverty

They make out that they are really struggling and are asking for your help and support out of pity for their difficult position.

When they say: We are really struggling here – without your help we could be out of business – please can you just support us during this difficult time?

We can respond with: We do genuinely recognise how difficult is for a multi-billion pound market leading retailer to survive and are of course here to help as long as it’s a two-way street and works for us too.

Single coin in a pair of dirty hands
The pleading poverty tactic is designed to make you feel sympathetic

21. One Last Thing

Also known as the Columbo after the fictional 70’s TV detective. They wait until the very end of the meeting, often when you are at the elevator or saying goodbye at reception, and quickly throw in a seemingly minor request. It is very easy to say yes without realising.

When they say: Just one last thing can you send 10 cases of samples to our test kitchen by 4 pm?

We can respond with: Ah, the old Columbo tactic!! 10 cases of samples by 4 pm will cost over £2000. Not a problem if we get listings in 10 more stores.

Businessman holding open elevator doors
This tactic is designed to make you think their big request is minor
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