Difficult Negotiators – Part two in a three part series

Written by Suze, February 02nd, 2017

Negotiation is what you get paid to do, so being excellent at this is crucial to your success.  You don’t get to choose your negotiation counterpart, so it is our responsibility to have the skills to facilitate the best possible outcome, even when the other agent makes it seem impossible.

Last week I shared part one, The Accidental Hard Bargainer.  This week we will dig deep into the Reluctant Hard Bargainer and next week we unveil the secrets of The Intentional Hard Bargainer, also known as the Skilled Competitive Negotiator.

The Reluctant Hard Bargainer is typically being heavily influenced by some outside power.  This could be his client or an advisor for his client.  It could be a deeply held unconscious bias or belief that the negotiator holds.  I have even seen situations where an incompetent coach or mentor has influenced an agent to take stands that are counter productive to a negotiation.


The reluctant hard bargainer is irrational, stubborn, closed minded and it often seems impossible to get a deal done but let’s take a look at some strategies that you can use to help move these types of negotiators towards a more collaborative process and get a successful outcome for your client.

  • Compliment or acknowledge your counterpart to show some respect, build trust and encourage a more collaborative approach so that you can uncover some of his hidden interests. If the agent is refusing to have a conversation with you, repetitively stating his positions and insisting that his terms are non-negotiable, let him know that you are impressed with this commitment to protect and represent his client.

“Joe, I can see that you are deeply committed to representing your client and that’s excellent.  I meet so many agents that are weak and it’s great to see a real professional.  Why don’t you tell me about what is keeping you from negotiating, and maybe we can move on from there.”

In most cases, he will be willing to open up about some of his motivations behind his demands with this approach.

  • Be responsive to their concerns and constraints. By asking deliberate questions about their needs, allowing them time to answer, and actively listening to their responses, you should be able to uncover hidden constraints that are causing them to behave competitively.  You will likely need to be extremely patient and somewhat intuitive to truly hear what is behind their words but once you uncover their real needs you can work with them to meet those needs while satisfying the needs of your side.

“Joe, I really hear you about the closing date and if we can meet that we will –  but if my side can’t close on that day is it a deal breaker?”

And then listen to his answer, deeply.

  • Work to build a human connection outside of the negotiation. This is tricky in the middle of a heated conversation but often you can shift away from negativity by easing the time constraints and revisiting the negotiation from a different perspective.

“Joe, we’ve been arguing over these points for a while now.  Let’s step back, take some time to reflect and revisit this tomorrow.  How about I call you in the morning around 10am – does that work?”

When you reconnect on the phone the next day, engage in a conversation about something other than the negotiation.  I find that sharing something personal that shows a little bit of vulnerability often goes a long way to making a valuable human connection that can soften their approach to the negotiation.

4 Responses to “Difficult Negotiators – Part two in a three part series”

  1. Brian Legare says:

    Another excellent article Suze.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Ruth Smith says:

    Hi Suze I consider myself fairly good at negotiating always looking to improve. Love this one!

  3. Eddie G says:

    Although You make a good point about collaborative negation when dealing with your counterpart, and your strategy to breakdown the barrier of a difficult agent, I find dealing with specific cultures the strategies you recommend are almost impossible to implement…otherwise the knowledge you are sharing is excellent. Cheers

    • Suze says:

      Thanks for your comments Eddie – it can certainly get trickier when we add in cultural differences but these strategies are still a good starting place to try to build a bridge across the communication gap. Have you taken our Cross Cultural Negotiation training? It’s pretty valuable!

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