Never Make a Concession When You're Negotiating Unless You Ask for Something in Return
By: Roger Dawson
|Roger Dawson is a professional speaker and the author of two of best selling books on negotiating: Secrets of Power Negotiating and Secrets of Power Negotiating for Salespeople, both published by Career Press. He was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame in 1991. You can contact him at email@example.com. His website address is: www.rdawson.com
This article is excerpted in part from Roger Dawson's new book-Secrets of Power Negotiating, published by Career Press and on sale in bookstores.
Power Negotiators know that anytime the other side asks you for a concession
in the negotiations, you should automatically ask for something in return.
Let's look at a couple of ways of using the Trade-Off Gambit:
- Let's say that you have sold your house, and the buyers ask you if they
could move some of their furniture into the garage three days before closing.
Although you wouldn't want to let them move into the house before closing,
you see an advantage in letting them use the garage. It will get them emotionally
involved and far less likely to create problems for you at closing. So
you're almost eager to make the concession, but I want you to remember
the rule: However small the concession they're asking you for, always ask
for something in return. Say to them, "Let me check with my family
and see how they feel about that, but let me ask you this: If we do that
for you, what will you do for us?"
- Perhaps you sell forklifts and you've sold a large order to a warehouse
style hardware store. They've requested delivery on August 15-30 days ahead
of their grand opening. Then the operations manager for the chain calls
you and says, "We're running ahead of schedule on the store construction.
We're thinking of moving up the store opening to take in the Labor Day
weekend. Is there any way you could move up delivery of those fork lifts
to next Wednesday?" You may be thinking, "That's great. They're
sitting in our local warehouse ready to go, so I'd much rather move up
the shipment and be paid sooner. We'll deliver them tomorrow if you want
them." Although your initial inclination is to say, "That's fine,"
I still want you to use the Trade-Off Gambit. I want you to say, "Quite
frankly I don't know whether we can get them there that soon. I'll have
to check with my scheduling people, and see what they say about it. But
let me ask you this, if we can do that for you, what can you do for us?"
One of three things is going to happen when you ask for something in return:
I trained the top 50 salespeople at a Fortune 50 company that manufactures
office equipment. They have what they call a Key Account Division that
negotiates their largest accounts with their biggest customers. These people
are heavy hitters. A salesperson at the seminar had just made a $43 million
sale to an aircraft manufacturer. (That's not a record. When I trained
people at a huge computer manufacturer's training headquarters, a salesperson
in the audience had just closed a $3 billion dollar sale-and he was in
my seminar taking notes!) This Key Account Division had its own vice-president,
and he came up to me afterward to tell me, "Roger, that thing you
told us about trading-off was the most valuable lesson I've ever learned
in any seminar. I've been coming to seminars like this for years and thought
that I'd heard it all, but I'd never been taught what a mistake it is to
make a concession without asking for something in return. That's going
to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future."
- You might just get something. The buyers of your house may be willing to
increase the deposit, buy your patio furniture, or give your dog a good
home. The hardware storeowners may just have been thinking, "Boy,
have we got a problem here. What can we give them as an incentive to get
them to move this shipment up?" So, they may just concede something
to you. They may just say, "I'll tell accounting to cut the check
for you today." Or "Take care of this for me, and I'll use you
again for the store that we're opening in Chicago in December."
- By asking for something in return, you elevate the value of the concession.
When you're negotiating, why give anything away? Always make the big deal
out of it. You may need that later. Later you may be doing the walk through
with the buyers of the house, and they've found a light switch that doesn't
work. You're able to say, "Do know how it inconvenienced us to let
you move your furniture into the garage? We did that for you, and now I
want you to overlook this small problem." Later you may need to be
able to go to the people at the hardware store and say, "Do you remember
last August when you needed me to move that shipment up for you? You know
how hard I had to talk to my people to get them to re-schedule all our
shipments? We did that for you, so don't make me wait for our money. Cut
me the check today, won't you?" When you elevate the value of the
concession, you set it up for a trade-off later.
- It stops the grinding away process. This is the key reason why you should
always use the Trade-Off Gambit. If they know that every time they ask
you for something, you're going to ask for something in return, then it
stops them constantly coming back for more. I can't tell you how many times
a student of mine has come up to me at seminar or called my office and
said to me, "Roger, can you help me with this? I thought I had a sweetheart
of a deal put together. I didn't think that I would have any problems at
all with this one. But in the very early stages, they asked me for a small
concession. I was so happy to have their business that I told them, 'Sure,
we can do that.' A week later they called me for another small concession,
and I said: 'All right, I guess I can do that too.' Ever since then, it's
been one darn thing after another. Now it looks as though the whole thing
is going to fall apart on me." He should have known up front that
when the other person asked him for that first small concession, he should
have asked for something in return. "If we can do that for you, what
can you do for us?"
Jack Wilson, who produced my video training tapes, told me that soon after
I taught him this Gambit, he used it to save several thousand dollars.
A television studio called him and told him that one of their camera operators
was sick. Would Jack mind if they called one of the camera operators that
Jack had under contract and ask him if he could fill in? It was just a
courtesy call. Something that Jack would have said, "No problem,"
to in the past. However, this time he said, "If I do that for you,
what will you do for me?" To his surprise, they said, "Tell you
what. The next time you use our studio, if you run overtime, we'll waive
the overtime charge." They had just conceded several thousand dollars
to Jack, on something that he never would have asked for in the past.
Please use this Gambit word for word the way that I'm teaching them to
you. If you change even a word, it can dramatically change the effect.
If, for example, you change this from, "If we can do that for you
what can you do for us?" to "If we do that for you, you will
have to do this for us," you have become confrontational. You've become
confrontational at a very sensitive point in the negotiations-when the
other side is under pressure and is asking you for a favor. Of course,
you're tempted to take advantage of this situation and ask for something
specific in return. Don't do it. It could cause the negotiation to blow
up in your face.
When you ask what they will give you in return, they may say, "Not
a darn thing," or "You get to keep our business, that's what
you get." That's fine, because you had everything to gain by asking
and you haven't lost anything. If necessary, you can always revert to a
position of insisting on a trade-off by saying, "I don't think I can
get my people to agree to that unless you're prepared to accept a charge
for expedited shipping" or "unless you're willing to move up
the payment date."
Key points to remember:
- When asked for a small concession by the other side, always ask for something
- Use this expression: "If we can do that for you, what can you do for
- You may just get something in return.
- It elevates the value of the concession so that you can use it as a trade-off
- Most important, it stops the grinding away process.
- Don't change the wording and ask for something specific in return because
it's too confrontational.