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Social Pressure: "Your competition is cheaper." Now what?


From playing on the playground as kids to negotiating in a conference room as adults, social pressure affects us. After all, humans are social creatures! We crave acceptance. So much that we'll pay exorbitant sums of money, swipe endlessly, or even lie just to have companionship.

Unfortunately, this can be a liability in negotiation. And if you're negotiating with a professional, they know how to use social pressure against you. Luckily, there are tactics you can use to recognize, prevent, and even defend against those tactics.

Your Competition Is Cheaper

This is one of the most common social pressure tactics: "Your competition is cheaper than you are."

This tactic is designed to make you offer discounts. Don't fall for it! While there may genuinely be another offer on the table, you shouldn't succumb to the pressure and cut your rates.

And it's not your job to justify the higher price; it's their job to justify the lower price.

Instead, utilize a tactic we call Acknowledge, Reassure, Ask. Here's an example of how you might pivot that conversation.

"That's not unusual and we hear that occasionally. I can assure you that what we presented will be the best solution for you. Can I ask, why do you believe our competition values their solution cheaper?"

Changing The Rules

Another tactic is where the negotiator comes up with an unexpected demand or information they didn't share before. Here is one of the common ones: "All this information is great, but I'll need to talk to my boss."

Here, the social pressure comes from the need to adapt quickly to unexpected demands or information, often under the guise of maintaining a good relationship.

One way to avoid this is to make sure you uncover the decision process ahead of time. Ask questions like:

  • "How do you/your company make decisions around products like these?"
  • "Who typically needs to be involved in this process?

Here's what you need to know. It doesn't matter what the authority in their world thinks; you need to worry about how they will justify their solution to them.

And if they still use that tactic, you can once again utilize the Acknowledge, Reassure, Ask tactic. Here's an example of how you could both discuss that with your prospect and lay the groundwork to expand your contacts within the organization.

"Sure, that would make a lot of sense to speak with your boss. However, I can assure you that she is going to ask you some questions that will be difficult to answer. Would it make sense that the three of us find some time to talk so I can keep you out of harms way and answer her difficult questions?

Get Tough

A huge factor in being able to recognize these gambits for what they are and manage them successfully is remembering this important Sandler Rule: Get Mentally and Emotionally Tough.

This is easier said than done. For many, it's an ongoing, life-long process.

If you need support, our team would be happy to talk. Our firm specializes in coaching high-performing teams through issues like these, as well as other sales and business issues.

And if you would like even more insight on negotiation, check out my book Negotiation from the Inside Out.

Clint Babcock

Clint Babcock

Clint has nearly 25 years of experience developing and directing organizations' recruiting and sales strategies, as well as coaching and mentoring "C-level" executives. His expertise is in training inside and outside consultative sales teams in new business development, profit and loss management, sales compensation, key account management, and product/service positioning. Specialties include corporate sales training, public speaking, hiring assessments, and business development structuring.