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NEGOTIATION - Tactics & Strategies


For Project Management we can say negotiation is a bargaining (give and take) process between two or more parties (each with its own aims, needs, and viewpoints) seeking to discover a common ground and reach an agreement to settle a matter of mutual concern or resolve a conflict.

Negotiation is an interpersonal skill that can be used in Procurement, and other processes, when concerns or conflicts arise.  In Procurement, these concerns or conflicts may arise before award of contract, and/or at contract close out. It pays to be a good negotiator as I have seen millions of dollars saved or lost primarily due to negotiating skills. So look at this as an opportunity for improvement. It will be worth it!

"Anything is Negotiable" is a popular book by Gavin Kennedy. In project management we can negotiate Scope, Schedule, Cost, Responsibilities, Authorities, Process to be used, Payment schedule, to name a few.

So here are some negotiation tactics that can be used by you, but more importantly they also might be used against you; so watch out for these!

  • Good guy/ Bad guy: One person takes an extreme counter position, then the good guy arrives and seems friendly. Don't be fooled; and remember neither one is on your side.

  • Deadline: "The president of our company is going away for 2 months and if we want his signature we need to wrap this up today." To offset this tactic ask questions to see how real and how firm the deadline is. Then consider the consequences of a time extension and a temporary workaround.

  • Competition: "I can buy the same item at ACME for much less money." You can offset this tactic by looking for differences in what ACME is offering, such as: Is the warranty as good? Are the options the same? What is the delivery cost?

  • Limited authority: "I am only authorized to do this much, so more cannot be given." This tactic can be offset at the start by only negotiating with the person who has the authority to make binding decisions. If this tactic comes later in the negotiation, say "Then I need to speak with Mr. Big."

  • Missing person: "My boss is away and would need to authorize that, so why don't we just agree to (what I can authorize here and now). Similar to 'Limited Authority.' and your offsetting countermeasures are the same.

  • Delay: This tactic ultimately becomes 'deadline' as you run out of time.

  • Moral appeal: "Let's be fair about this. We have here an equitable solution." Ask questions to find out what would be the consequences of proceeding with this agreement. Questions put you "in the driver's seat."

  • Extreme demands: This is taking a position beyond normal expectations. "You can't expect us to ensure the quality of our product." Respond with "Yes I can, and I do!" Do not be intimidated out of your position.

  • Blanketing: "Everyone is doing it!" There is a huge credibility in numbers, and we see this in advertising all the time. Who is everyone? You can offset this tactic by turning to other references such as independently published standards, your company's standards, etc.

  • Association: "We made the same agreement with Mrs. Bigwig." This namedropping is also a form of building credibility. Drill this down to ask qualifying questions like: the size of order, when it occurred, what else was in the deal. You may find that your negotiation is not so much the same as first led to believe.

  • Withdrawal: "I don't see how we can continue this discussion." Be prepared to walk away. If you negotiate from a point of caring too much, you weaken your negotiating position. For this reason, often professional negotiators are not at all connected with the negotiating parties.

  • Fait accompli: "This is a done deal. The new government regulations leave us no options." This may or may not be true, but gives the appearance there is nothing to negotiate. Look into details of exactly what is regulated, what is not regulated, and possible interpretations of the regulations.

And these last two  are just nasty. You likely do not have a good relationship with someone who would say these; and given the choice, you might not want to continue negotiations. They are:

  • Attack: "If your organization cannot (do such and such), perhaps it should not be in business!"

  • Personal Insults: "If you do not understand (so and so), perhaps you should find another job!"

As you see, each of these negotiation tactics has counter measures you can take to offset the tactic. This page will get you started. The use of tactics and countermeasures are found in several books and articles on negotiations.


As you prepare for negotiation, there are several strategies to keep in mind:

     1. Everything is Negotiable: do not be embarrassed or shy about asking for a

         better deal.

     2. Keep Calm and Relaxed: keep body language neutral. Be aware of facial

         expressions, yours and the other party's. Add humour when appropriate. Aim

         for friendliness, regardless of your personal feelings. This shows confidence  

         and is disarming of the other party.

     3. Don't Make the First Offer: the other party might be willing to offer more than

         you expect. Don't worry if it seems awkward. Ask the other party to offer first.

     4. Do not negotiate against yourself: Negotiation is a give and take. Every time

         you say something you give information. If you have made an offer that

         seems unacceptable, then wait for the counter-offer.

     5. Bundle: include other items. Optional items, auxiliaries, extended warranties,

         and other related items are perfect to 'sweeten the pot.'


     6. Use silence: your silence might make the other party uncomfortable enough

         to improve the offer. get comfortable with the silence someone might use on


This article gives 12 overriding strategies to help you with your negotiations. Although written to consultants, you will find these strategies useful for all your negotiations!

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