Games Customers Play

People play games and customers are people who are good at the games they play to get the best deal from a seller. Sales negotiations can be a fierce game. Just when you think that you’ve won, you’re customer pulls a new trick out of their sleeve and trump your hand. In complex sales, this is a constant occurrence. As a sales person the best thing that you can do to keep your negotiations game in top shape is to anticipate the cards that your customer is holding before they even put them on the table. This type of clairvoyant anticipation is best achieved through years of experience playing the negotiations game. However, even if you are a newcomer to the world of complex sales, there are steps that you can take to make yourself think more like a seasoned player.

       People take on roles when they negotiate, whether it’s conscious or unconscious and sometimes they can get in the way of good negotiations. But if you need a few tips that you can start using right away, just keep reading. Below is a list of ten common ploys that customers will try to use to throw you off guard during a negotiation. If you can identify these tricks properly, it will be much easier to counteract them.

1. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT or ‘I am the boss’ game.

Customers love to be in charge, and they like to give ultimatum to say that they are in charge. If some one feels this is their last offer in a sales negotiation, they say ‘take it or leave it’. What do you do? Will you replay them with words attacking on similar tone ‘same here take it or leave it”. Well that is not persuasion and definitely not negotiating. You will say “I feel you’ but this is all I can offer. I wish I could do that, but this is all I can do in my power and budget. This is the bottom it gets”. Please think about your final offer. You persuade them one more time. You allow them to be in-charge but you give them a real consideration to say a final price. If the other party say again “No take it or leave it”, you must move on with your other options. If the other party knows that you have options to consider, then power is on your side.

 2. The big ‘NO’ rejection game.

How to react to a big no?. When people hear a ‘no’ they feel they are attacked, and you feel like striking back immediately but this will make you lose a deal. It is natural to people react negatively to your proposal and they will say a big NO, but then you give them time to evaluate it and adjust their thinking. Give space and time and re-present your perceptions that are beneficial to the other party to make a decision. With the passage of sufficient time and repeated efforts a ‘no’ can be transformed in to a ‘may be’ and eventually a ‘yes’. People also tend to change their mind with additional information. No is often a response to the limited information presented earlier. Remember change and ideas are acceptable only if you present them bit by bit, in slice by slice fragments. Make your proposition more simple and understandable.


People exaggerate to make you feel that you are wrong. They will say ‘ It costs so much. I can’t believe it.’ Well when they say that; educate them why it actually is ‘worth’ so much. People have standards in their mind. They always make comparison to something else. If they say this cost too much?, Ask them what they are comparing to. Tell them you can’t compare apples with oranges. If you are a seller you must educate the buyer to raise their standards. You must be able to talk benefits to a consumer. If you can justify your worth people will pay the price you are asking. 

4. The Helpless game, also known as the Confession behavior of the seller.

The seller will come up with a confession “You see this is my cost, now you decide how much profit I should make” He has put the ball in your court laying facts in your hands for you to decide. Mostly in this case a buyer gets usually persuaded, because the atmosphere is open, trusting and collaborative. Well it can be a game too, and a common game in a flee market price negotiation. In negotiation weakness can be strength- playing dumb is better than smart, inarticulate frequently when other party tries to make you give in. Train yourself like saying ‘I don’t know, and I don’t understand.’ Usually people don’t try their persuasion skills with a complete idiot. You keep your sophisticated arguments only to yourself .People do play dump to avoid the concession stage. 

5. The bully game.

The bully comes up with extreme demands and escalating demands which is positional bargaining. The bully some times acts like a psychological terrorist too. When there is a verbal bullying and tactical intimidations. What will you do in a situation like this? Fundamentally, it is important to realize that the so called intimidator or the bully is one with the problem. This usually happens when you are a service provider and your services are not met adequately. Despite all the provocation, the recipient of this abuse must remain calm and serene. You do not repose similar feelings to make things worse.

Never try to slug it out of the bully, but don’t back down either. If he continues, lower your voice below normal pitch. Continue to state your ideas with confidence.  A negotiation is more than exchange of acting and behaving that can develop understanding, belief, acceptance, respect and trust. It is the manner of your approach, the tone of your voice, the attitude you convey, the methods you use, and the concern you exhibit for the other side’s feelings and needs. Only one person can get angry at a time. This is yet another means to help individuals keep a cool head and pay attention to the process and the strategy, as well as the substance of the negotiation. If it’s not your ‘turn’ to be angry, the exercise of restraint can be turned into a positive opportunity to observe what is going on with a clear eye. No less important, yelling at each other is not negotiation; it is confrontation. In those situations there may possibly be a ‘winner’; but it is even more likely there will be a ‘loser’. You need to reduce the effect of biochemical that is activated by intense emotions. Like Thomas Jefferson said “when angry count ten before you speak, if very angry count a hundred”

If the other party still keeps giving you trouble you can ask a question straight-How do you want to negotiate? You can make a statement like-‘As I see it, in order to sort out issues we really need to listen to each other in an amicable manner, discuss our matters and arrive at satisfying conclusions for both of us’. Yelling is not really helping. This will change the way current process is going and make changes in the proceedings. Or you say ‘I am willing to talk about when you stop attacking me’. Make your other party agree on the rules of negotiation if they show their hostile side.

The bully’s favorite weapon is attack .Attack is a pressure tactic to intimidate you and make you feel uncomfortable to give in to their demands. Their lingua is insult, abuse and blame. When they attack you, get on to their side. It is hard to attack someone on their side. Stepping in to their side means listening, acknowledging and agreeing with their feelings, if not their rationale. Avoid confrontations. A confrontational manner is tit for tat. An eye for an eye leaves both parties blind. You need to apply a reverse psychology here. Surprise them with your reactions. Remember the best war is won with out the use of weapons.

People create stressful situations to other party to end the negotiation quickly with an ultimatum. The deadline rule in negotiation adds pressure, produce stress and force decision making process. They will ask for immediate concessions. Don’t ever be in a situation to fall for the last minute decisions. To avoid that you must better plan the worst case scenario and avoid the pressure of time. Threats are one of the most abused tactics in negotiation.  Warnings are more legitimate than threats. In this case silence is a golden principle. This is true for two reasons: If one party is highly opinionated or emotional, if their approach is threatening or extremely demanding, keeping quiet after they finish speaking can be quite unsettling to them. It is like jujitsu; you allow them to be tripped up by their own forcefulness. Most people are troubled by silence in the midst of heated discussion. Sometimes silence is viewed as disapproval — but since no specific disapproval has been voiced, it cannot be treated as an attack. It has happened on many occasions that, when met with silence, people have modified their previous statements to make them more palatable.

Silence is an important element in the crucial tool called Active Listening. The job of a good negotiator is to listen to and understand what others are saying. After all, you can’t make an intelligent response to an opinion you do not understand. The discipline of Active Listening requires that you focus on what another person is saying; don’t spend your time shaping a stinging response that will put them in their place. Active Listening has some interesting consequences: The listener may actually be able to get a clearer picture of the other party’s ideas. And when the listener’s response shows just how good a job he or she has done listening, it can shock the other party: They will say “Good grief, they actually paid attention to me!”. See your bully as a crying baby and just take care of him.

 6. Hard player’s and trickster’s game.

People play games, from psychological, emotional, justification and bluffing drama to build several pressure tactics .Certain tactics can get too tricky? When they do that the first tactic from your side is to keep quiet and not participating in it without responding to their tactic. Just because a ball is thrown at you, you don’t necessarily need to catch it. They are not negotiating truly! They are playing tricks and if you are not playing along it will subside very soon. The objective of a trickster is to make you play along and as you are not participating in it they will surely stop.

It pays to be nice. You catch more flies with honey. When you are fair, a good listener, and when you genuinely care, people love to be around you and will be comfortable and trusting towards you. They will shred their chameleon suits. On the other hand tricks are tactics to dupe you in to giving in. they manipulate the data. They bluff about their authority. They create an urgency to make you give in giving pressures from all sides. In this case Pursue Fairness. If all the participants view the process as fair, they are more likely to take it seriously and ‘buy into’ its result. Moreover, the focus on fairness can have an important impact on the substantive result. If the parties to a negotiation can agree on standards against which elements of the agreement can be measured, it can give each a face-saving reason for agreeing. Fair rates can be established with information like Base Rate of the other major lending institutions, an industry standard of marketability, or other common measures, can validate the agreement the parties reach. They can’t manipulate the data once you have authentic data. 

7. The good guy and the bad guy Game.

This is a game played by a party just like the good cop bad cop scenario. Bad guy gives threat first and good guy shows you the other side of persuasion by being friendly with you. They put persuasion and threat to give you pressure. They will pull and push you at the same time. They confuse you totally. Similarly two people on the same side will quarrel and show disagreement to your demands. It is like a debate about your offer except the part that you are not in it to prove your point. They are enacting a play and you don’t need to fall for this. Remember it is a game smart customer’s play to confuse you.

 8. Story telling.

Story tellers would say that the deal is not agreeable to the partner, management and members of the board. They will say that they have no personal objection from their side but opposition is from other people. They will ask for further deductions and concessions in this case. When they say that- tell them that you are eager to talk to their partner and board on agreeable terms. In some cases people will deploy a delay tactic. This is more like testing the deal. They are not really serious or ready to commit. They will come up with excuses and delay. If they are really interested in the deal as you are they really won’t waste their time and yours. Find out if the other party is interested or committed. The difference is when you are interested you do only what is convenient. If you are committed you will do whatever it takes. You need to be certain whether the deal really need your patience.


People deploy emotional tactics not to participate in the negotiating process but to resist it. They apply the stone-walling tactic as the total refusal to negotiate. This is the refusal to budge. They mean what is done is done and it can’t be changed. They will say “I can’t do anything about it, it’s a company policy.’ They will establish their rules and they will not listen to you. They stand rigid on their positions not to budge. They refuse to face you. In this case a third party intervention is convenient and advisable. Deploy unbiased intermediaries who don’t take compulsive decisions or rushing into concessions immediately.

     Emotional game is attacking another. Customers attack with anger and hostility. Behind rigid position lie lack of trust and fear. They use defensive mechanism not to participate in a friendly process. The customer threatens to break off negotiations.

       This is akin to an act of psychological terrorism. The implied threat is that if you do not lower the price considerably (perhaps ridiculously) that you will lose the opportunity to speak, in interact in any way with the customer. The only way to trump this hand effectively is to have enough information and research on hand to call the customer’s bluff. You should know from your research whether the customer really needs your product or not. If you know that they do, they are likely to recant once they see that you aren’t budging.

     In this case avoid arguments. Action provokes reaction, reaction provokes counteraction and that leads to chain reaction of disagreements. Defuse their negative emotions first. You can’t defuse the other side negative emotions unless you have controlled your own. 

10. The last minute objection game.

The customer representative literally has the pen in his or her hand and is ready to sign…  …but makes one last objection. Can’t we bring down the price just a little more? Couldn’t we throw in this or that? If you care about your sanity, the answer to these questions almost always needs to be no. As we have already noted, if you have done your research you should have a pretty good idea of how much your product is worth to your customer. If you know that they need the product and are willing to pay the price that you have agreed upon, it is almost always best to stand your ground. If necessary, explain to them again why the product is worth the agreed upon price, and why they can’t afford to go back on the deal. 

     Well you have understood few games and of course there are many more to it. Knowing how to combat these ten tricks is a good start, but really only a beginning. In order to be able to trump your customer’s hands 90% of the time you will need to be constantly improving your game. Every player has a unique game when it comes to get what they want. Our approach to good negotiation isn’t about winning and someone else losing. It is not about playing these games, where the intention is to lose on one side. You are only exposed to certain games others may play on you. This is just to give you an idea how to play along.

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