Nibble to get the best deal

Aggressive is Not Good – Unless Used Strategically

A common mistake negotiators make is asking for everything they want at the beginning of the negotiations. This aggressive approach is tantamount to forcing your counterpart to eat an entire elephant in one bite.  They’ll be offended and suspicious and likely walk away from negotiations.  From their perspective, you’re too difficult and, since they haven’t spent a moment negotiating with you and they haven’t invested time and resources into you or your client, you’ve given up the other negotiation tactic – the sunk cost gambit. The better approach is to deliver the elephant in something smaller than a bite – nibbles.

What is Nibbling?

The Nibbling Tactic is used at the end of negotiations when the deal is almost finalized. Your counterpart is thrilled that the deal is about to close and they’ve made up their mind to buy, sell or lease. Since people like be consistent with their actions and hate “losing” time spent on negotiations, they’re likely to stay the course even if they have to give up earlier demands. At this point – right before you sign the agreement – start asking for a few concessions.

For example, you’re about to buy a car and sign the purchase agreement. As your pen hovers you say “this comes with a full tank of gas, right?”. The sales person will likely agree because: they feel like they’ve already made the sale and have a positive attitude, which makes people more likely to give things away. Not to mention the thought we’ve all had: “we’re so close, what’s a few bucks to close the deal?”. Had you asked for everything upfront, however, I can promise you that you would have to have given up the gas tank request in order to shave off a few dollars on the purchase price.

Warning: Use the tactic only after commitment is clear

This tactic works because people are less anxious and confrontational after they’ve made a decision to buy, sell, lease or gamble. A study at a Canadian racetrack showed that people who hadn’t yet placed a bet were anxious and unsure about what they were about to do (i.e. gamble). Once people had made the decision to bet, this anxiety dissipated and they felt good about their decision to gamble. In fact, once they continued on the course of their decision they reinforced their actions by gambling even more! The same behaviour applies in negotiations. You have to coax your counterpart into the negotiations and convince them to close the deal. Once it’s clear that the deal is going to be done, ask for a concession. Your counterpart will likely give in to reasonable-ish requests to keep the deal alive and to be consistent in behaviour (I’ve acted committed this far, I can’t turn back now!).

Prevent your counterpart from nibbling on you

The problem with the nibbling tactic is that it can happen to you too! These simple tips will help you avoid this outcome:

  • Write down a list of all of the concessions you’ve already made and show them that you’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point
  • Counter with a causal nibble – “what about the return policy, let’s make it 90 days”.
  • With a big smile say, “Oh, come on! You’ve negotiated a great deal already, don’t make us give up everything and go red on this deal!” Make your opponent feel cheap, but in a joking way.
  • Negotiate all of the details important to your counterpart up front, but don’t make any demands until the end.

And, when in doubt as to timing or aggressiveness of your request, just say it with a smile.

The Only Tip Needed to Negotiate with a Liar

We all lie. And we’re all lied to. In fact, in any given day you’re lied to between 2 and 500 times. Think about it: has anyone told you “yes, you do look fat in the that dress” or, “yes, she is too good for you”. Probably not.

Men typically lie about themselves and their awesomeness more than women and women lie to protect others more than men. And both men and women are terrible at detecting lies.

One meta-analysis (a study of studies) found that people can correctly identify whether someone is telling a lie only 54% of the time—not much better odds than a coin flip. Even the polygraph—a technology specifically engineered to detect lies in a controlled setting—is riddled with problems and comes to the wrong conclusion about a third of the time.

Some argue that lying is a natural part of survival and that technology has made us less likely to lie than before. The problem with lying is that it confuses negotiations and makes it difficult to close a deal and get a win-win outcome. How could you possibly make the right concessions if your counterpart deceives you as to what they need? The answer is simple: ignore the possibility of lying and find ways to induce the opposing party to tell the truth. And the way to do this: offer options.

Use Options to Detect Truth

Present to your counterpart two or more offers, each containing different options. All of the offers you present must be equally acceptable to you as the goal is for your counterpart to choose which option they prefer. Your counterpart’s decision as to which option they like best divulges information “about [their] priorities and giving you insight into [their] relative valuation of the issues up for negotiation.” In other words, by rejecting certain offers with distinct terms, you now know what issues aren’t important and others that are critical to getting the deal done.

Lies are unavoidable (if you don’t believe me or want to be entertained, watch these TED Talks). But, the truth is out there if you take the time to think creatively and maintain a “win-win” attitude.


How Successful People Say No

Why Aren’t You Protecting What’s Important to You?

The more you do, the more people ask you to do. And if you’re a people pleaser – which most people are – you’ll say yes. And as soon as the “y” word escapes your mouth, I bet you begin to cry on the inside because saying yes means saying no to: sleep, friends, loved ones, rest, hobbies that keep you sane, family and exercise. Or, at least I do.

Learning how to say no does more than help you keep your sanity. It’s also a useful discipline because knowing when to say no means that you have a clear understanding of what you want. This ensures that you pour your energy into the right places.

Clarity on what’s important to you also helps you fight the very Millennial issue of FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) and reduce the number of failures you experience. If you want real examples of why saying no can save you from financial and personal ruin, listen to this 30 minute podcast (tip: fast forward the first 5 minutes as it’s all ads).

How to Say No – Even if You Need to be Liked!

As a professed “yes” addict and someone who gets a lot of “nos”, I’ve accumulated some very effective strategies on how to say “no”:

  1. You’re typically caught off guard, which means that you’re likely to default to your typical response – “yes”. Prevent this knee-jerk reaction by ALWAYS delaying the response. Say something like, “that’s interesting. Let me see if I can fit it in. Can I get back to you in a few hours?”.
  2. Turn it back on them. No, don’t ask them for the favour, but make them feel like you’re doing them a service by saying no. For example, you may not be able to give the project the attention it deserves. You may also not have the skills needed to provide value. The goal of this “no” tactic is to show why you wouldn’t be doing the committee/group any favours.
  3. If they desperately need the work done immediately or are guilting you into the work due to lack of resources etc, offer the “requester” another colleague or enemy’s (depending on the request) name. If you’re able, you can also offer to help find someone else to take on the task.
  4. If you’re truly interested, but are swamped, ask them to check back with you in a few months. List everything you’re working and provide an exact date to reconnect on the opportunity offered. Do this only if your desire to participate in the future is genuine. It’s not fair to waste anyone’s time.
  5. You may have a conflict. In fact, this happened to me. An organization asked me to sit on its Board, but I had to decline. Not only was I busy, but the organization was a potential competitor to another group in which I was involved. This gave me a second and legitimate reason for not being able to commit.

Saying no, just like negotiation, take practise. Let me know if you try these yes-addiction-busting-tips and how it worked out!

The Unexpected Negotiating Trick that Anyone Can Master

This past Friday, I was negotiating the terms of a 50-page lease– which isn’t unusual, except that the landlord rejected EVERY single one of our edits and refused to budge on even its most ridiculous demands. My stomach began to knot.

My stress was further compounded by the fact that I was up against a sharp lawyer who’d been in the industry longer than I’d been born. Not to mention the fact that the landlord was in a better position due to financial, location and market reasons. As these realities sunk in, the knot grew tighter. How was I going to get any leverage over this lawyer and the landlord?

This is a common question we all ask whenever we have to negotiate with someone who may have more grey hairs, more authority (i.e. a boss, Rogers cable), a fancier education or someone with a disturbingly aggressive ego. And this question is easily answered by patience. As in, your leverage is patience.

How Patience Works

The landlord didn’t have time to “deal” with the negotiation, as he wanted to get through the negotiation before his vacation. It was also revealed – after a lot of digging and listening – that the landlord needed the lease to be signed due to a refinancing requirement. Both the lawyer and landlord weren’t much interested in patience and I had plenty of it. And using it worked. I took my time during the negotiation. I allowed for many awkward pauses. I hummed and hawed, dragged out the conversation, asked lots of questions and made them sweat under the time pressure until they simply conceded to one request after the other, for reasons described below.

I wish I could claim that my patience solution came from a moment of clarity – the sea parting and a voice booming down. But, it didn’t. It was something less dramatic, but nonetheless useful: Dawson’s book, Secrets of Power Negotiating. For anyone buying, selling or negotiating anything, I urge you to read on and discover how to use the simple trick of patience and why patience works so well. 

Time Pressure

Time pressure plays a part in every negotiation […]. If you want to see how time can be used as a negotiating tool, just watch some children getting concessions from their parents. Children know all about time pressure. If they want something, they ask for it just at the last moment. They wait until you’re rushing out the door for an important meeting … that’s when they know they have the best chance of getting what they want. Why? Because they subconsciously know that under time pressure people become flexible.

Unless sellers are under time pressure, it’s hard to get good buys. However, when they are under a lot of time pressure, you can get terrific buys. And what time pressures might sellers be under? Of course, you won’t know until you have done some work gathering information and asking questions. But there are a lot of possibilities:

  1. Maybe they’re behind on their mortgage payments and don’t see how they can catch up.
  2. Perhaps they are actually in foreclosure and in danger of losing the property unless they can find a buyer.
  3. They might need money to pay off mounting debts.
  4. They might have contracted to buy another home and can’t close on it until they sell this one.
  5. Possibly they’re retiring soon and want to move as soon as possible.
  6. That’s just a partial list of the many things that put sellers under time pressure. Make your own checklist and expand it with each new situation you encounter. Keep your list in mind when you first meet with potential sellers and see if you can spot symptoms of the time pressure they may be under.

To extort time-pressure information from the seller you might ask, “Would you consider a lower offer for a fast sale?” Sellers don’t always respond truthfully, but you may get a feel from the eagerness of their response. If you are dealing with a real estate broker, have your agent call the listing agent and ask, “How long has it been listed? Have they turned down any offers? Why are they selling?” The listing agent will be more likely to share this information with another agent than with you directly.

Another aspect of time pressure that is especially germane to buying real estate is Acceptance Time. It often takes sellers time to understand that they are not going to get as much for their property as they hoped. A low offer that might horrify a seller just after they’ve put their property up for sale may look a whole lot better after the property has been on the market for three months without an offer. Never write off sellers as being hopelessly inflexible on their price. Some of the best buys are from sellers who call back weeks after they turned down the original “unacceptable” offer. They needed time to see that they weren’t going to get a better offer. Always leave the door open for sellers to reopen negotiations. Instead of pressuring them by saying, “This is my final offer,” leave the door open with a statement like, “I hope you get what you’re asking, but if you don’t, call me. I’m not saying I’ll be in a position to buy later, but we can always talk some more.”

Patience is a real virtue when negotiating. The longer you can keep sellers involved in negotiations, the better chance you have of getting what you want. Take your time inspecting the property. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Discuss things you may have in common with sellers. If you see golf clubs or a fishing rod and you golf or fish, have a conversation about it. Take a tape measure with you, measure some of the rooms, and note down the measurements. Pace off the back yard and write it down. Why do these things? For two reasons: The longer you spend with sellers, the more trust they will develop in you. And the more time they spend with you, the more flexible they will become when the negotiations start. Time spent with you will increase their flexibility on price, terms, and other considerations. Why? Because mentally, they want to recoup the time spent with you. Their mind starts to tell them, “I can’t walk away from this empty handed after all the time I have invested.”

There is a caveat here. If you aren’t careful, time can work against you in the negotiations as well. You may find yourself becoming more flexible for the same reasons sellers do. Your subconscious mind will be saying, “I don’t want to walk away from this with nothing after all the time I’ve spent on it.”