Trick Or Treat? Lessons In Negotiation

Every year as I arm myself with handfuls of sweets, waiting for the knock on the door that heralds the arrival of the trick-or-treaters, I’m reminded of the key lessons in negotiation we can learn from Halloween.

Opening the door and finding a scary monster standing opposite you offering you a trick or a treat can be frighteningly similar to some of the negotiation tactics we face in the business world.

Just as on Halloween, we have to make a judgment call, should we take it as a trick or a treat?

So how do you know whether you are being tricked during negotiations?


Check out my list of the 5 most common negotiating tricks:

1. Saying “No”

Refusing to negotiate is one of the oldest negotiating tricks in the book. If your counterpart is saying “no” to everything you put on the table, they may be trying to undermine your position. In situations like this remember to stay positive, name what they are doing and move the conversation on by saying “Look this has to work for both of us….”

2. A wall of silence

You’ve presented your proposal and you’re waiting for your counterpart’s response and then….nothing. Silence is a powerful way to trick the other party into making a lower offer. So resist the urge to fill the silence, instead take a breath, keep calm and quiet. The other party will soon realise you know what they are up to and that their tricks are not working on you.

3. Intimidation tactics

Physical intimidation is one of the nastier negotiating tricks out there. I once negotiated with someone who refused to engage with me and demanded to speak to my boss as a way of weakening my position. To balance the playing field I replied “Maybe I’d like to speak to your mum”, obviously said with a twinkle in my eye. After this it’s key is to then lighten the mood and move the conversation on with something such as “Let’s not be like this…”

4. “I need a decision and I need it now”

My key piece of advice is don’t allow the other party to hurry the negotiations. As a general rule the longer the negotiations take, the more likely you are to reach an agreement that benefits both parties. If your counterpart says, “I need you to make a decision now”, resist the time pressure and don’t be afraid to push back – they are unlikely to walk away from a good deal.

5. “We just don’t have the budget”

“We don’t have enough budget” can be a difficult trick to spot – as it can sometimes be a genuine reason in which case you need to come up with a different proposal. However, it can often be a trick to try and get the price down. If you are being put under pressure to cut costs, remind them “I can’t give you something for nothing” and instead try to bring different variables to reach an agreement.

I hope this has given you the tools to tackle even the scariest negotiating scenario so that the only tricks you’ll fall for this year are the ones on your doorstep this Halloween!

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