Saturday 25th January 17:38

Negotiations: Gambits

preparingfornegotiationsIf your job requires you to make successful deals with others, you have to recognize that others will aim to extract as much from you, by fair means or foul, as you are willing to give. That's why you need to understand the gambits, or tactical moves, they will play on you. And why you in turn need to become a master gambit player.

Here are 8 gambits that you should practise at every opportunity and use when you are involved in high-level deals that are important to you or those you represent.

1. Shock Them

The first gambit you should play to make successful deals comes right at the start. It's to shock the other side. If you are making an opening demand, go as high as you credibly can. If you are making an opening offer, go as low as you credibly can. These gambits are known as Mother Hubbard (because the cupboard's bare) and Reluctant Buyer ("I don't think I'll buy after all").

2. Adjourning

There's one thing in the early stages of negotiations that novice negotiators rarely do well. And that's adjourn. That's because they start off with a desire to settle quickly rather than an awareness that they have to play the game. So, even if your opponents offer something within your range, you must still adjourn and after a display of long consideration, say No.

3. “You’ll Have to do Better Than That”

The astute negotiator and former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, had a neat little trick that always netted him something extra with no work on his part. Whenever anyone made a proposal, he'd always say: "You'll have to do better than that", even if he hadn't seen it. Amazingly, the proposal always came back with improvements.

4. Hot Potato

When the other side in negotiations puts pressure on you to come up with a solution, such as a new offer, don't be fooled into thinking you have to find an answer. Throw them a hot potato instead. This means simply summarizing the stalemate you've reached, emphasizing what you'd both lose if you fail, and then passing the problem back to them.

5. Forcing the Issue

There are 2 gambits that are often played when things aren't going well in negotiations. "Higher Authority" means saying you have to check things out with someone up the chain of command. "Good Guy, Bad Guy" suggests that, if there is no agreement, you'll have to give way to a new negotiator who could be much tougher. If you are in negotiations and the other side plays these on you, simply expose what they're doing by saying with a laugh, "Oh I see you're playing Good Guy, Bad Guy".

6. Diversionary Tactics
If your negotiations are stuck firmly in the mud, you can move them on with 2 diversionary tactics. The first is Gallipoli. Gallipoli was the name of a Turkish town used to open a second front in World War One. It means you start discussing some new area. The second is Red Herring, the name given to rotting fish used to throw hunting dogs off the scent. It's a pure smokescreen to start talking about another issue that could unlock progress.

7. Trying Things Out

If you can't make any improvements on a negotiating offer, there are still 2 gambits to play. In "Alternative Choice" you create 2 packages that are within your offer and ask the other side: "Which do you prefer?". Since they have to choose, you get an idea what they will go for. "Puppy Dog Close" is an offer to the other side to try the deal out for a limited period, the way parents are offered a puppy to try out for the weekend. Because you know that people rarely take puppies back on Mondays, there's every chance they'll keep the offer rather than give it back.

8. Salami

Novice negotiators are always at their weakest near the close of negotiations because they have their eye on the prize. To reach a successful deal in your favour, that's when you should play salami. First you grab one slice, a tiny concession, that, you say, isn't crucial. Then another...and another. Until the whole sausage they so vigorously defended earlier is yours.

Download More Materials on Negotiating Gambits

Click here for a one-page, action-packed summary of Negotiating Gambits and here for another skillbooster on "The Rules of Negotiation". Train others how to use these skills here with the one-day course plan on "Negotiating Tactics".