The 7 Deadly Sins of negotiation

Nicolas Caron

Published : 29 September 2016
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Pêchers capitaux de la négociation - Le grand Blog de la vente - intro

Whenever the discussion gets tense, especially when it comes to rates, negotiation skills come into play. This is normal and logical. However, the business environment we have now been dealing with for years is so stressful that people in the field are often prone to losing control. Yet, negotiation techniques cannot translate into proper action unless salespeople manage to keep their head cool and detach themselves from their immediate target. In order to maintain some distance and methodically apply negotiation techniques, we must resist the 7 deadly sins of negotiation…

We will see that these sins can be committed by both ourselves and our contacts. Knowing about them will allow us to get a better grip on ourselves and maybe help others avoid them… or on the contrary, fall for them!



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The idea that we negotiate best when we don’t really need the coveted object or service is self-evident.

For instance, when negotiating casually in your private life, you may have often surprised yourself by getting concessions you would never even have dreamt of. Since you have no real need for what you want to buy, your “detachment” will transpire through your behaviour, your posture, and all the unconscious messages conveyed to the seller. This detachment and distance will ultimately help you reach your goal, or better yet, surpass it.

Curiously, what seems obvious for many sales reps when doing private business is much less intuitive when they act in their professional capacity. It’s as if there was a playing field where we could detach ourselves from the outcome and another where pressure is such that we feel a compelling NEED to sign all the deals.


Always show that you want something,

Never that you need it !




Pêchers capitaux de la négociation - Le grand Blog de la vente - la paresse


French cineaste Michel Audiard coined the famous catchphrase : “When a man who weighs 120 Kg explains something to a man who weighs 75 Kg, the former is often right.”. In negotiation terms, one might put it this way : “When a lazy man negotiates with a hard-working man, the latter is often right…”


  • If in addition to weighing 120 Kg (i.e. a big part of your turnover), your contact is well prepared, negotiating is set to be tough.
  • If on top of that, you are not as well-prepared as he is, negotiating looks like an impossible feat.
  • On the other hand, if you’re the one who has invested the more time and reflexion in your preparation, then the outcome of the negotiations won’t be as much of a forgone conclusion.



In negotiations too, the worst is never certain…

But getting ready for it is the best way to avoid it.







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Since customers from large retailers and the automotive industry have left their mark, it seems like many can no longer approach negotiating without going through a “warrior” ritual.

Nowadays, few are the people – even among those you’ve trustfully worked with for years – who can resist the temptation of waving with more or less “tact” or “deftness” the threat of walking out on you, reducing your market share, or shutting you out from a project. This is sometimes ridiculous and if anything, should rather elicit smiles…

Many salespeople think they need to act superior and show that they’re the boss. What nonsense! The goal is not to triumph, to win a verbal contest, or to show that one is stronger. The goal is to sign a deal profitable for both parties.

“Nothing is more humiliating than not coming up with

a slashing retort to a slashing attack.”

Milan Kundera


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The culture – or fashion? – of zapping and immediacy is now shared by the majority of us. We run and hurry as we all strive to catch up with the sands of time… The problem is that speed is often counter-productive, especially when negotiating with a “partner” determined to get the best deal… Indeed, who never once regretted rushing and granting concessions to a buyer who was, as far as he was concerned, only beginning to consider his options?

Time is an important factor in negotiations, but only one among many. No more, no less. You need to know how to address it, just like the other key factors of success, with distance and objectivity. In some cases, you should slow down the pace, whereas in others, you’d better speed it up and bring things to a swifter conclusion. In any event, it is crucial to detach yourself from time related pressure and transform the time factor into an additional source of efficiency.

Good bargainers in a hurry simply do not exist!




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Pride too is an ugly sin in negotiation. I’m pretty sure you’ve already conducted an interview with a buyer looking down on you with condescension, arrogance and the self-satisfied aplomb of those who consider themselves above the fray. Quite annoying, isn’t?

While buyers are prone to fall into this trap, keep in mind that sellers are even more liable to get fooled. However, this attitude from buyers can also be good news for sellers…

Whenever the ego starts taking up too much space in the mind of sales reps, slipups and positions of weakness lurk around the corner. For ultimately, in a negotiation, who is most at risk? The person who is more comfortable, more self-assured, or the one who clearly is not. The best sales reps know that the one who should feel perfectly at ease is the one sitting in front of them. If that person wants to “act smart” … well, good for him or her!

One must learn to dress up like a pig to kill the Tiger

Chinese proverb




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In her international bestseller Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Susan Jeffers denounced the perverse effects of fear. Here’s how she introduced her book: “Fear seems to be an epidemic in our society. We fear beginnings, we fear endings. We fear changing, we fear “staying stuck”. We fear success, we fear failure. We fear living, we fear dying.”

For a salesperson we’re talking about the fear of failure, the fear of losing a deal. I’m sure you have personally experienced this type of fear on numerous occasions. Now do the following experiment: Analyse objectively the results of your last ten negotiations. Looking back, did you most of the time:

  • “overestimated” your negotiating power. In this case you took a risk a little too strong which made you miss the deal.
  • “underestimated” your negotiating power. In this case you agreed to sell at prices below those you could have claimed.

So? What is your answer? Typically, the majority of participants in our sales negotiation seminars recognize that they underestimate their capacities much more often than the opposite… The result: a lot of rate concessions granted with no real justification

“They always say one should never hit a man when he’s down…

But when then?”

Woody Allen





Pêchers capitaux de la négociation - Le grand Blog de la vente - la naïveté

Naivety in negotiation often stems from failing to take a step back and assess the situation. Sales reps are overly focused on their goal and blinded by their desire to close the deal. So much so that they forget to put things into perspective and analyse calmly what they are being told or offered… and perhaps realize that they are consenting to unacceptable demands wrapped in a nice-looking “cordiality package”.

“Win-win” negotiation is a rather nice concept at first glance. But upon closer inspection, the definitions proposed for it often sound like perfect shortcuts for compromise. I’m not saying you should never compromise, only that it is not a good place to start from. There’s a step customers love to see taken by kind vendors who believe in fairy-tales. You know, the type of children’s stories that begin like this: “We are looking for a long-term partner with whom we would like to work with on the basis of a fair and sustainable agreement for both parties.”

The problem with this sort of statement is that the apparent kindness of the approach can conceal rather unorthodox definitions of what should be understood as “fair”. Besides, I think it’s always healthy to ask yourself some questions when someone feels compelled to tell you that they have no intention of ripping you apart… Like when someone can’t help confessing to you: “Trust me, I’m an honest person.” Personally, I had my worst professional experiences with this kind of people…

In negotiation, the naivety of some makes the happiness of others!


Here, we’ve gone through a first overview of the main negotiation sins you should avoid. If you want to know more about them and, more specifically, learn how to make them work in your favour, contact us…




Best of luck with your business!

Nicolas Caron





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