Sometimes you can get lucky…….

We all like to get lucky. There are times when, through good luck or good positioning your counterparty will offer terms that are substantially better than what you had expected to achieve. This may happen when your counterparty did not prepare properly. It may also happen because you had underestimated the potential outcome. Either way, take the deal and count your blessings.

There are times however when you should be very wary of accepting a deal that sounds too good to be true, especially if you have prepared well or you know your counterpart to be an experienced negotiator.

If a reasonable counterpart has made an irresistible offer you should really start to think why? Perhaps you underestimated your negotiation strengths or their weaknesses? If so, ask yourself why? Is there critical information that you are missing?

Alternatively – are they offering something that they know will turn out differently by the time you are finished? Perhaps they are trying to sucker you into an agreement that you will eventually regret.

Having spent over 30 years in business I have learned that 95% of all surprises in business tend to be negative surprises (and some of my colleagues consider me an optimist). I therefore become very suspicious when a negotiation turns out too easy.

Here is a recent example of what I mean:

I was on a family holiday recently in beautiful San Francisco when, having some time to spare, I decided to check out an electronics/ camera shop on Fisherman’s Wharf. The location is a classic tourist trap and, having watched their New York counterparts at work, I was expecting to encounter a highly seasoned salesperson. I asked the price for a lens for my camera and was told $400. I knew the lens was on offer at a major retailer in Heathrow for about $350. Given the nature of the shop I decided to flinch and to counter with a low anchor by claiming that I that I could get the lens in Europe for about €190, i.e. $215. The salesperson asked what €190 were in US$ and I responded “about $195”. He hesitated for a second and then offered the lens for $150.

At that stage my alarm bells were ringing. For an experienced salesperson to be making such a large concession so fast indicated to me that there had to be something fishy going on. I decided not to pursue this further. I assumed that the lens was either damaged or fake or that the offer would be linked to something else that I did not want.

On returning to my hotel I googled the shop and discovered a very long and detailed litany of complaints regarding the shop (and even the salesperson). These complaints indicated that initial offers were not honoured in the end and that clients were pressured into buying other equipment at inflated prices. Quite a number of complaints were also about faulty or even fake goods.

The key lesson to draw from this is that when things are too good to be true they are probably neither good nor true.

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