Sometimes a buyer will deliberately deadlock in order to lower your aspirations. She will take you to the edge of the cliff and see how tough you talk then.

Buyers know that some sellers are so terrified of deadlock that, at the first sign, they will make concessions rather than face the possibility of not closing the business.

The well-trained buyer exploits this fear by threatening deadlock: ‘Well, if that’s the best you can do, it’s outside what I’m allowed to spend, so we’ll have to pass on it this time.’

The unskilled seller responds by offering a discount, and then rationalises it: ‘It’s the only way we could get the business.’ The skilled seller knows how to handle a price challenge and responds by suggesting another look before we admit defeat, or perhaps an alternative package.

A little overeager

Whether you are acting as the seller or the buyer, if you have pushed the other side too far and deadlock looms, you must have the grace to renegotiate. The all-time best line here is: ‘I may have been a little overeager, let’s go through it one more time before we admit defeat.’ The word ‘overeager’ allows you to climb down.

I learned this many years ago from an outstanding salesman, Clive Holmes. I happened to be in his office when he was on the phone negotiating to buy a horse from an owner in Ireland. The horse was advertised for sale at £12,000. Clive made a low offer and clearly, from what I could hear of the conversation, the owner was outraged. Clive had pushed too hard.

Then, with great grace and aplomb, he said, ‘My apologies, I may have been a little overeager, can we start again?’ He bought the horse close to the asking price and I learned a valuable lesson: if your stance in a transaction is to test the other party by aiming high, you must be a master of the gracious climbdown, otherwise you both walk away lose-lose. Anyone can be a tough negotiator; the object is to be effective.

Learn more about LDL negotiation training.

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