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How to Shift Power in a Negotiation

shift power in a negotiation

Jack Schafer spent much of his career in counterintelligence in the FBI. But during his last seven years at the FBI, he worked in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), where they’d design interview strategies based on the vulnerabilities of someone’s personality.

There are numerous psychological tactics that you can use in negotiations. Jack emphatically believes that whoever has power in the negotiation wins. It boils down to whoever gains the most knowledge. So you’re trying to get pieces of knowledge to gain power over the other person.

How to shift power in a negotiation

Jack recently sought to buy a new truck. Trucks are in short supply, so the prices are astronomical. Jack knew that the dealer had the power. So he waited until the end of the month, at the end of the year, so the salesperson needs the sale to meet the quota to get their bonuses. That shifted the power to Jack.

The salesperson said he’d sell Jack the last truck on their lot at $5,000 over MSRP. Jack said, “No, I’m leaving.” The salesperson stopped him and said, “Let’s talk, ” transferring the power to Jack. The salesperson offered to sell it at MSRP. Jack declined and started to leave. They said, “Wait—let’s work something out.” Jack ended up buying the truck for $3,500 under MSRP.

Leverage time in a negotiation

There’s an emotional sum cost if someone spends four hours trying to sell you a car. If they don’t make the deal, they may have lost sales to other people. Psychologically, they’re more inclined to do what they can to make the sale.

The other way to leverage time is by setting a deadline. A car salesman could tell you that their offer is only good that day (but we all know the truth is they’ll sell you the same car at the same price the next day).

Who has the authority?

You have to find out if the person you’re negotiating with has the authority to make a deal. If you ask a salesman if they can sell you a car at the price you want and they say, “I have to check with my manager,” they don’t have the authority. You can tell that person to connect you with their boss directly so you can negotiate with them to make the deal happen.

Uncovering your counterpart’s objections

There’s always a block that prevents people from buying. You need to learn what that is. Jack will point out that they’re at an impasse. He’ll ask them to write down a number between one and one million. He says, “If I guess that number, will you tell me the truth?” If they say, “Yes,” it tells you two things.

First, it tells you that they’re lying. Secondly, it tells you that they’re willing to keep talking. If they say “No,” it tells you they’re lying and don’t want to continue the conversation. So you’ll have to redirect your questions.

Car salesmen do this all the time. They’ll write down a number and say, “If I can sell you a car at this price, will you buy it?”

Jack Schafer shares more fascinating negotiation techniques that he learned during his time with the FBI in episode #349 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast. Check it out!