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Games Negotiators Play


A dear business friend, Al Cleinman, frequently said, “Better to imitate genius than invent mediocrity.” These words have served me well.

Best-in-class salespeople work diligently to hone their craft. They understand the value of being prepared for the worst-case scenario. They understand that trust and loyalty have been diminished in business relationships.

Great salespeople also know that daily they may be face-to-face with an average, savvy, or black belt negotiator. These salespeople know the difference between the three based on the games that are played. Negotiating games.

How would you rate yourself as a negotiator? Can you hear a game used against you? Do you recognize the game piece they just moved?

A business negotiation takes place when the other side wants – or needs – you to change the position you’ve taken whether that be price, terms, or conditions. Even an average negotiator knows that more often than not, it’s an easy game to play with most traditional salespeople.

KNOW THY GAMES. Great salespeople name their strategies and tactics. So do negotiators.

Consider these:

HIGHER AUTHORITY/LOWER AUTHORITY sounds like this, “You guys are wonderful. I’m impressed with your approach, and I’d look forward to working with you. So, let me get with the boss. He’s tough, usually pushes back a bit, but let me see what I can do.”

BAFO sounds like this, “Well, congratulations. You’ve made the shortlist and have earned that! We’re very pleased with your efforts. You’re one of three finalists, and now we’ll need your best and final offer.”

ESCALATION sounds like this, “We are going to do a lot of business with you. The first project is just a small pilot, and if all goes well, there’s a ton more to come.”

HOT POTATO: This is just like the children’s game: the buyer takes a problem which is really of his own and tries to toss it to you. For example, have you been in a situation where you worked through a process and evaluation, had agreed on the investment early on, went through and demonstrated that you had a solution which would solve the prospect’s problem, and as you got down to getting the deal done he said, “I’ve got some bad news. We just had our budget cut by 30% on this project”?

Buyers come with varying skill sets. They’re negotiating gamers, and they’re well-versed in specific games.

What’s in your game set?

Tim Roberts

Tim Roberts

Tim has led the way at Sandler® Trustpointe in Indianapolis since 1998. He is a Trusted Advisor to CEOs, Sales Managers, and best-in-class sales professionals throughout the state and around the world. Tim's one of a kind presentation of the Sandler System is a transformational experience that produces ethical, strategic, high producing, and powerfully professional sales and customer service organizations. Reach out to Tim at 317-845-0041 or