Power Negotiators know that anytime the other side asks you for a concession in the negotiations, you should automatically ask for something in return. Let's look at a couple of ways of using the Trade-Off Gambit:
Let's say that you have sold your house, and the buyers ask you if they could move some of their furniture into the garage three days before closing. Although you wouldn't want to let them move into the house before closing, you see an advantage in letting them use the garage. It will get them emotionally involved and far less likely to create problems for you at closing. So you're almost eager to make the concession, but I want you to remember the rule: However small the concession they're asking you for, always ask for something in return. Say to them, "Let me check with my family and see how they feel about that, but let me ask you this: If we do that for you, what will you do for us?"
Perhaps you sell forklifts and you've sold a large order to a warehouse style hardware store. They've requested delivery on August 15-30 days ahead of their grand opening. Then the operations manager for the chain calls you and says, "We're running ahead of schedule on the store construction. We're thinking of moving up the store opening to take in the Labor Day weekend. Is there any way you could move up delivery of those fork lifts to next Wednesday?" You may be thinking, "That's great. They're sitting in our local warehouse ready to go, so I'd much rather move up the shipment and be paid sooner. We'll deliver them tomorrow if you want them." Although your initial inclination is to say, "That's fine," I still want you to use the Trade-Off Gambit. I want you to say, "Quite frankly I don't know whether we can get them there that soon. I'll have to check with my scheduling people, and see what they say about it. But let me ask you this, if we can do that for you, what can you do for us?"
One of three things is going to happen when you ask for something in return:
I trained the top 50 salespeople at a Fortune 50 company that manufactures office equipment. They have what they call a Key Account Division that negotiates their largest accounts with their biggest customers. These people are heavy hitters. A salesperson at the seminar had just made a $43 million sale to an aircraft manufacturer. (That's not a record. When I trained people at a huge computer manufacturer's training headquarters, a salesperson in the audience had just closed a $3 billion dollar sale-and he was in my seminar taking notes!) This Key Account Division had its own vice-president, and he came up to me afterward to tell me, "Roger, that thing you told us about trading-off was the most valuable lesson I've ever learned in any seminar. I've been coming to seminars like this for years and thought that I'd heard it all, but I'd never been taught what a mistake it is to make a concession without asking for something in return. That's going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future."
Jack Wilson, who produced my video training tapes, told me that soon after I taught him this Gambit, he used it to save several thousand dollars. A television studio called him and told him that one of their camera operators was sick. Would Jack mind if they called one of the camera operators that Jack had under contract and ask him if he could fill in? It was just a courtesy call. Something that Jack would have said, "No problem," to in the past. However, this time he said, "If I do that for you, what will you do for me?" To his surprise, they said, "Tell you what. The next time you use our studio, if you run overtime, we'll waive the overtime charge." They had just conceded several thousand dollars to Jack, on something that he never would have asked for in the past.
Please use this Gambit word for word the way that I'm teaching them to you. If you change even a word, it can dramatically change the effect. If, for example, you change this from, "If we can do that for you what can you do for us?" to "If we do that for you, you will have to do this for us," you have become confrontational. You've become confrontational at a very sensitive point in the negotiations-when the other side is under pressure and is asking you for a favor. Of course, you're tempted to take advantage of this situation and ask for something specific in return. Don't do it. It could cause the negotiation to blow up in your face.
When you ask what they will give you in return, they may say, "Not a darn thing," or "You get to keep our business, that's what you get." That's fine, because you had everything to gain by asking and you haven't lost anything. If necessary, you can always revert to a position of insisting on a trade-off by saying, "I don't think I can get my people to agree to that unless you're prepared to accept a charge for expedited shipping" or "unless you're willing to move up the payment date."
Key points to remember:
Roger Dawson is a professional speaker and the author of two best selling books on negotiating: Secrets of Power Negotiating and Secrets of Power Negotiating for Salespeople, both published by Career Press. He was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame in 1991.
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