Negotiation Tactics and Tough Situations: How to React to Tactics

By Alex Moskov July 6, 2021 | 7 min read

The main goal of using negotiation tactics by a customer is to fundamentally alter the negotiation in the customer’s favor. Negotiation tactics are tricky for a reason but can be handled with ease with proper foresight. 

Customers will use negotiation tactics to: 

  • throw you off balance,
  • force you to lose your focus,
  • force you to deviate from your plans, or
  • force you to react rather than be proactive.

However, not all that is tough is necessarily a tactic. Sometimes, what may seem to be a tricky manipulative tactic is actually a genuinely tough situation that must be handled to push the negotiation forward. If we automatically assume every hard objection or difficult request from the other party is a tactic, we may blind ourselves from an actual problem that must be solved. 

This is why it’s paramount to be able to read and differentiate between tactics and generally tough situations. There are four general types of negotiation tactics you will encounter.  

4 Types of Negotiation Tactics

Procedural: Procedural tactics aim to establish procedures or define the negotiation process to gain an asymmetrical advantage. This includes the “Good Guy/Bad Guy” team setup and artificial deadlines.

Legitimacy and Limited Resources: Legitimacy tactics aim to establish a law that you must follow. This includes strategies such as Take It or Leave It,  Established Norms, Limited Authority, Limited Resources. 

Personal Power-Up: Personal Power-Up tactics are a direct and often manipulative effort to assert dominance. This includes Location and Physical, Show Up Late, Irrational Behavior, Interruption, Going Around You, and Outnumbering You. 

Lie, Cheat, and Steal: The key theme that runs through these tactics is not living up to the original agreement. This includes Non-performance, The Deceptive Stall, False Rumors, Escalation, Nibbling, and Fait Accompli.

However, it’s not always easy to differentiate between the tactic and plain tough situations. For example, let’s say a buyer says, “I’m going to need you to discount your IT support by 50% more than you’ve proposed. If you cannot do that, I’ll need a deeper discount on the total price support of this deal to management.” How do we know whether the above request is a tactic or just a tough situation? We have to get to the bottom of the truth:

  • If the statement is untrue and is only being used to exercise pressure to receive more value, then it is a tactic.
  • If the statement is true, then it’s probably just a tough situation, one that requires using other negotiables to appease the buyer.

However, if you’ve identified a statement as a tactic, it’s best to use countermeasures rather than counter-tactics. One of the best ways to do so is to use negotiation behaviors as countermeasures. 

How to Use Negotiation Behaviors to Counter Tactics

Two particularly powerful Behaviors you can use to counter tactics are to Make Demands and Ask Open Questions. Each Behavior is either Self-Interest (competitive) oriented or Relationship (collaborative) oriented, and both can be used alternatingly to establish your self-interest and move the negotiation forward. 

The Make Demands Behavior revolves around concise requests beginning with the word “I” and delivered without explanations. These are especially compelling when followed by silence.

Making Demands works very well against people attempting to be manipulative or take control of the negotiation. 

For example, if a person tries to use something along the lines of Irrational Behavior in the  “Personal Power-Up” tactic, and starts berating you during the negotiation, an effective countermeasure would be to say, “I expect to be treated in a professional manner.”

If the berating behavior continues, you may have to repeat your Demand, but by calmly sticking to your Demand, the other party will eventually reflect your poise and stop. 

Similarly, Asking Open Questions is a powerful method to determine if your buyer is telling the truth or for deflating a tactic once you’ve identified it. 

In our previous example, if the customer says, “ “I’m going to need you to discount your IT support by 50% more than you’ve proposed. If you cannot do that, I’ll need a deeper discount on the total price support of this deal to management.” you could Ask an Open Question to determine if it is a tactic. 

If you start to suspect that it is actually a tactic, you can start to defuse it: “Why do you envision needing extensive IT support?”

If the customer is using a tactic, they will likely have a harder time giving truthful answers to your questions, and that is much easier to see than from the first objection. 

Alternatively, if the buyer’s statement is true, then he or she will likely have detailed, truthful answers. In this case, you’ve not only identified the roots of a problem but valuable information in regard to the buyer’s priorities.

Final Thoughts: The General Procedure for Handling Negotiation Tactics

The good thing about building a tactic and tough situation excavation skillset is that it can be applied regularly to your negotiations: 

  1. Identify the tactic being used against you.
  2. Call attention to it.
  3. Raise it as an issue.
  4. Negotiate an end to the use of the tactic by using the Behaviors.

A few examples include: 

Make Demands: 

  • I would like the two of you to get together and work out your response, then get back to me. 
  • In order to meet your deadline, I need a decision today.
  • I would like to reach a deal that is good for both of us.
  • I need to get (original price) per unit.

Ask Open Questions:

  • Why am I getting mixed signals from the two of you?
  • What is creating the urgency?
  • Would you tell me about the constraints you are under that have prompted these
  • conditions?
  • What could you and I do to make the decision today?

Test and Summarize:

  • So the two of you are not in agreement. Is that right?
  • It sounds pretty urgent. I hear you saying there is no way to postpone the decision, is that right?
  • What I’m hearing is you can’t make a decision without your manager’s approval. Is that correct?

Propose Conditionally: 

  • What if I schedule a meeting with the two of you together so we could work it out?
  • What if we could find a way to get your manager to give us more time?
  • What if we could find a way to speed up a part of the delivery? Would that be of value to you?

Make Trades:

  •  I would be willing to give you the two-week delivery you need if we can get an agreement worked out today.
  • I’ll get you the report in one week if you can give me names and phone numbers of the three experts we discussed.
  • I’d be willing to give you this price for the first installation, but I need you to commit to the full three-year rollout.

Use the above information wisely to regain control of your negotiations and keep your relationships with buyers intact.

RED BEAR Negotiation Company is a global performance improvement firm dedicated to maximizing the profitability of the agreements negotiated with customers, suppliers, partners, and colleagues. If you’re interested in empowering your team with world-class negotiation skills, contact us for more information.


One of the first steps to becoming a master negotiator is to learn 5 key negotiation behaviors and how they work within the 3D Negotiation Model to your benefit.
As humans, we’re naturally averse to dwelling within a state of tension — it’s uncomfortable, it makes us feel vulnerable, and it often leads to behavior that dissipates as much of the tension as...

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