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Beware the Irritant

Ben Byth
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We were fortunate enough to see this done exceptionally well the other day: A buyer introduced to the negotiation a demand that they had no genuine expectation of securing. The demand was something unachievable and a little ridiculous.


However, the sales person was like a deer caught in the headlights, desperate not to disappoint the cunning buyer. The sales person did absolutely everything else he could to try and make the deal acceptable to the buyer. ‘While I can’t do that for you… I could look at x, y and z, maybe also a, b, and c’.


What the buyer learned through the sales person’s desperate attempts to not lose the business was all of the areas in which he was able to be flexible and concede!


In exchange for all the areas of flexibility that had been signalled, the buyer then graciously took their irritant back off the table. The buyer had generated a lot of value in exchange for removing something which she had never intended to achieve as part of the deal.


While it may be fun and reap short term rewards… be aware that this kind of behaviour does not foster long term collaborative relationships. So, unless you are in a short-term transaction (maybe buying a car), your irritants may be better used in other ways.


When faced with a ridiculous demand, you might be able to determine that it is, indeed, an irritant (and not important to the counter-party) by asking good questions and listening carefully to the answers and signals. For example: Why do you need this? What would your alternative be if you couldn’t have it? The answers may give clues, indications that everything isn’t black and white, that the counter-party could really live-and be satisfied- without their ridiculous demand met.


Introducing your own irritant can also be an effective way to deal with a laughable demand from your counter-party. If you will agree to my ludicrous irritant, I will agree to your ludicrous demand. This is a blocking technique. It may well pick a fight… ‘you are being unreasonable’… to which you could reply… ‘so are you!’. Having a reasonable counter-proposal ready that addresses everyone’s needs could help you move forward in your negotiation.

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