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6 Strategies Buyers Use to Negotiate Price

Some buyers are conditioned to try certain tactics to lower your price. Maybe they've read about negotiation in books or were trained to use pressuring strategies.

When buyers take this kind of positional and win-lose approach, their goal is generally to gain the most for themselves at the expense of the seller. For example, savvy buyers know that many sellers will be especially vulnerable to manipulation just when a contract is about to be signed. It's tempting at this point for the seller to give the buyer what they want and lower the price instead of digging deeper to uncover if their concerns are valid, or a bluff.

Here are six common tactics buyers might use to gain a positional advantage, and ideas for how to respond:

  1. Anchoring

    Buyer says: "We're looking to spend no more than $500,000 for this."

    With this tactic, the buyer shares a target price, such as a budget cap, to anchor the bargaining range.

    How to respond: Ideally, you should be the first to suggest a price. Don't wait for the buyer to do so. If that doesn't work out, don't accept their number at face value. Ask how they came up with their number, and how it fits with their budget. The goal is to uncover whether it's a real number or a ploy.

  2. Whack Back

    Buyer says: "Your price is too high," no matter what it is when you tell them for the first time.

    This is one of the most common buyer tactics—to ALWAYS push back on the first price offered.

    How to respond: Ask why. Listen fully as the buyer explains their objection, and ask permission to completely understand the issue. What they say will dictate your response. For example, if they say, "Well, I've bought it before for X!" You can say, "I think the reason I'm here is that you've had a lot of problems in the past. We're different than X." And so on.

  3. Sticker Shock

    Buyer says: "It costs how much?!"

    The buyer appears to be shocked or stumped by the price you've offered. It could be an orchestrated reaction, rather than genuine surprise.

    How to respond: Ignore their flinch and wait for any theatrics to die down. Ask why it seems high to them. Often their reasoning is faulty, and you can open up a conversation based on what you find out.

  4. Cherry Picking

    Buyer says: "I know I told you our initial order would be 5,000 units with 5 components, but we'll just need 500 units and 2 components at first. I did the division so the price should be..."

    In this scenario, the buyer has tried to unbundle a solution to gain concessions, and assumed the unit price will stay the same.

    How to respond: Address the issue head on with a statement such as "I'll need to review the pricing based on the new scope and terms." They may make it seem as though these new terms came out of nowhere and nothing can be done, but remember—you don't have to accept changed terms just because the buyer changed them. Engage in a discussion to work out appropriate pricing.

  5. Pencil Sharpening

    Buyer says: "You're going to have to do better than this. We need to get it for less."

    This is a common pushback tactic to "get you ready" to drop your price because it's "expected."

    How to respond: Don't ask "Well, where do we need to be?" This is a trap. Focus instead on asking questions such as, "Why?" and "What are you comparing us to?" Hold your ground on differentiating the value you offer. If you probe to create solutions, the buyer will often back down.

  6. Now!

    Buyer says: "I'm talking to the CEO in 5 minutes. Are you sure I have the best price?" Or, "I will give it to a competitor by noon if you don't make this concession."

    This tactic uses time pressure to get the seller to lower their price.

    How to respond: Don't panic or reflexively drop the price. Stall for time to think. Ask for a few minutes to disengage, saying something like, "I'm in the middle of something else right now. I can take a look soon and call you back." Alternatively, you can ask, "So we'll know one way or another after your meeting?" If the buyer says no, then it could be a bluff. If it's a yes, take time to think and call back with a bargain you want. But be aware that this can be a power play on their part. If you cave, they'll expect it in the future.

Now that you can identify these buyer strategies, prepare for your next negotiation by giving some thought to how you will respond if any arise. It's your job to dig deeper into the real issues, separating the buyer's valid concerns from their bluffs and manipulations.

Read More: 4 Things to Do When Clients Pressure You for Lower Fees 

Additional Reading
How to Maximize Prices and Improve Margins

With increased product and service commoditization, sellers in almost every industry complain about price pressure and shrinking margins.

At the same time, there are some sellers and sales organizations who are consistently winning sales against lower-priced competitors and growing their margins.

6 Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation

When watching sellers negotiate, perhaps the easiest things to see are the mistakes. Having now spent two decades studying sales negotiation, observing negotiations, and coaching and training sellers to negotiate, we've distilled the common areas that the best sales negotiators consistently get right.

[On-Demand Webinar] 6 Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation

Negotiating a sale is never easy, and more often than not you'll be faced with price pushback, lengthy delays, excuses, purchasing nightmares, and more—even after you think you've done a solid job making your case.

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