Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press a button to make prospects more generous during your negotiations? Rather than fighting for every concession, you could have friendly, amicable discussions resulting in agreements that satisfy everyone.
While a magic “generosity button” might not exist, we’ve found the next best way to encourage collaboration rather than competition. These five strategies use common cognitive biases to make your negotiation partners feel more magnanimous.
How to Get More Concessions During Negotiations With Psychological Biases
1) Give Concessions in Stages
According to Deepak Malhotra, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, your concessions will have the biggest impact on your negotiation partner if you make them in stages.
Why? Research proves most people prefer getting bad news all at once -- but receiving good news in installments. That’s why if you ask someone whether they’d be happier finding $20 today versus $10 today and another $10 the next week, they’ll typically choose the second scenario, even though it’s the same amount of money.
Use this cognitive bias to your advantage by splitting each concession into smaller parts. Imagine you’re giving the buyer a 25% discount. You’d start with a 10% discount, then discount 15% further later on in the negotiation.
These multi-part compromises will seem bigger than they would have otherwise -- which will make the buyer more generous.
2) Justify Your Requests
Thanks to the illusory superiority effect, we tend to view ourselves in the best possible light. We’re more cynical or judgmental toward other people, especially when their goals conflict with ours.
In other words, your prospect distrusts your motives but gives himself the benefit of the doubt. Counter this by giving a reason for each term or request.
For example, rather than saying “We need payment for the first year upfront” with no explanation, you might say, “There’s a 6% processing charge for every payment. Rather than incurring that fee every month -- a cost which we'd have to pass on to our customers -- we collect your payment upfront.”
Once you’ve given the buyer some context, they’ll be far likelier to see where you’re coming from. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found simply adding the word “because” to a request increased the percentage of people who would grant it by 33% -- even though the reasoning made no sense.
Providing a genuine explanation will make it even likelier you’ll win the prospect’s trust, and with it, their generosity.
3) Don’t Try to Guilt-Trip Them
Accusing your prospect of being cheap, manipulative, or selfish will only backfire. They’ll think, “If that’s what you think of me, I might as well live up to that reputation.”
When the buyer does make a ridiculous demand or refuse to change their position, don’t respond with, “You can’t expect me to accept that offer,” or “You’re not being fair.” Instead, delve into their reasoning.
In a neutral, calm voice, say, “I’d like to learn more about your goals. Why is [request] important to you?”
Your prospect might share some relevant details that’ll change your opinion. And if they’re truly out-of-line, this question will usually make them back down.
4) Praise Their Fairness
When the buyer compromises or makes a generous offer, don’t let it go unnoticed.
Here are four ways to explicitly recognize it:
“I appreciate that offer, it seems like it’ll benefit us both.”
“That’s a fair offer. Thank you.”
“Thank you for meeting me in the middle.”
“I know X is important to you, so I appreciate your flexibility.”
These lines accomplish two things. First, your prospect is gratified you noticed their generosity. Second, you create a reputation they want to live up to. If you’ve praised them for being unselfish, they’re far less likely to make a selfish demand later on. After all, that would undo their earlier good deed.
5) Give a Unilateral Concession
Let’s say a coworker you’d never talked to before offered you the extra can of soda he got from the vending machine. A few days go by, and you see the same coworker in a meeting. Because his random act of kindness is still on your mind, you’re more vocal about his great idea than you would have been otherwise.
The same concept applies to negotiations. Give a no-strings-attached concession, and the buyer will automatically trust and like you more. Generosity breeds generosity -- they’ll likely end up rewarding you with a unilateral concession of their own.
Think of a few potential concessions in advance and try to introduce one fairly early in the negotiation. Make sure you’re not asking for anything in return -- either overtly or implicitly -- or your gesture will seem far less generous.
Once you’ve implemented these tactics into your negotiation strategy, you’ll find prospects far more willing to compromise. It’s a win-win: You’ll be happy with the outcome, and so will they.
Originally published Feb 8, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated February 08 2017