Every negotiation is going to involve one or more concessions. However, there’s more to conceding than simply giving the other party what they want. It’s not just what you concede, it’s also the way in which you concede that can make or break your negotiation. What you need is a set of concession guidelines.
In case you missed it, we previously introduced our list of the 5 most common concession patterns used by high performing negotiators. While these patterns are helpful in understanding how best to concede and what to avoid, mastery of just the concession patterns alone doesn’t guarantee that you will get that critical negotiation edge that helps close more deals. Consider our concession guidelines as your “how-to” instructions.
Before jumping into the concession guidelines, take a moment to start your planning to ensure a highly effective negotiation. Download our Concession Planning Worksheet to start building your strategy.
Concession Guideline #1: How you concede is more important than what you concede.
How and when you make concessions can affect the other party’s perception of the value of your solution or your willingness to work toward an agreement.
One common mistake people make is conceding too eagerly, showing so much flexibility, that respect is lost. This sort of behavior teaches the other party to ask for more.
Another common mistake is being too stubborn and resisting concessions unreasonably. This sort of behavior teaches the other party to stand their ground, too, often leading to a stalemate.
The benefit of effective concession planning is establishing a reasonable range of concessions and balancing your competitive instincts and your collaborative nature. As you’ll see, the more comfortable you are with tension, the better you will perform. If you lack confidence when dealing with pressure and tension, take a look at our post regarding how to leverage tension for positive outcomes.
Concession Guideline #2: Do not make any concessions unless you have to.
If you believe your offer is fair, do not concede. It is important to commit to the value of your offer to reinforce your power in the negotiation.
A common mistake people make is conceding too much, too easily, leaving little to bargain with later.
You should only concede if it’s a clear requirement for moving the negotiation forward, or if the other party has already made a concession of their own. Only then should you relent, and if you have to, make sure you get something in return (we’ll get to this later).
Concession Guideline #3: Test the other party’s resolve before you make the first concession.
Do not make any concessions unless the other party makes a concession first, or unless it is absolutely necessary to keep the negotiation going.
A common mistake people make is conceding too early in the process to “get the ball rolling.”
Consider using the martini concession pattern, initially holding steady before conceding according to plan. When using this pattern, it is important to ask questions to draw out more information or multiple requests from your opponent in order to gauge the firmness of their position or the size and scope of your initial concession.
Concession Guideline #4: When you give a concession, get one in return.
If you make concessions in the hope of moving the negotiation toward closure, be sure to get a concession in return.
A common mistake people make is making a concession to appease an objection. It’s important to remember that not making value-based trades sends a negative message about your position and the value of your concession.
Getting something in return forces the other party to put some skin in the game, and it sends a message, “I’m not giving you something unless I get something back.” You reinforce the value of what you’re giving away by making them pay for it with a concession of their own, and you send a message that conceding is a two-way street. This also makes the other party think twice before asking for more.
Concession Guideline #5: When you make concessions, first try to give up things that have high value to the other party but are low cost to you.
Identify negotiables to meet the other party’s need, and then use those that are low cost first.
A common mistake people make is not understanding the true cost of negotiables lowers the profitability of your deal.
During your planning, be sure to identify what you are willing to offer as a negotiable. Start by considering items that have a low cost to you but offer high value to the other party. These negotiables can provide the necessary wiggle room to concede in ways that serve to maximize the overall value of your agreements.
Remember: Slow and reluctant beats quick and eager.
We all remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare, right? You should account for tension in your negotiation strategy and leverage it as a positive force. By taking your time and “stewing” in the tension, you can increase engagement and find creative ways to improve your outcomes. Negotiators that seek to avoid tension end up making the mistakes shared above and tend to concede too quickly and too easily. The more comfortable you are with tension the easier it will be to draw out your opponent’s offer and increase your chances of establishing a position of power.
Remember, at the end of a negotiation, people need to feel good not just about the results of the deal, but about the actual flow and exchange of value of the negotiation itself. People need to feel that they worked hard, were treated fairly, and that they reached the best agreement possible.