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Industry, Education

March 26, 2019

Negotiating Tip 111: In Over Your Head

It’s time for challenging questions!

Have you ever felt over matched or incompetent in a business dealing?  Were you ever hanging on by a thin thread of comprehension?  Did you ever look at your counterpart and wonder if you would embarrass yourself due to a lack of understanding? 

It is quite common that we are dealing (negotiating) with people who are experts in their field. 

  • The insurance agent explains an investment annuity.  
  • The water treatment technician explains how the water softener programming system works.  
  • The car dealer discusses the features and costs of upgrade options. 
  • The accountant presents multiple options for minimizing tax liability. 

Each of these will likely muster a common feeling in all of us.  Specifically, I'm struggling to comprehend what they are talking about.  Does this give you confidence that you can negotiate the best terms possible?

So what do we do?  How can we level the playing field?  Here are some techniques that can level the playing field.

1.  Slow down the process

Rushing to a settlement when you are already at an expertise disadvantage is disastrous.   Ask for more details.  Don't make a deal at one meeting.  Put more pressure on your counterpart to bring you up to speed.  Put off any agreement decision until after you've been totally briefed. 

2. Don't hesitate to admit your vulnerability, but communicate that you've been in this situation before and you always exhaustively check things out.

3.  Do more research up front

Online and print resources are easily accessible to us all.  Seek out others who have considered this product or service and see what they can share.   Don't be complacent and think that you know more than you really do. 

4.  Ask challenging questions....and I mean CHALLENGING!

Such as:  
  • What's the biggest complaint you get about this?  
  • Where can I get this at a better price?  
  • Who's your toughest competitor?  
  • In a year from now, will I look back on this decision and wished I would have done something differently? 
  • Why do you folks make this so complicated?  
  • Why do I sense that this might turn out better for you than for me? 


Good negotiators know how to level the playing field when they are over matched with regard to expertise.  

They have the knack of preparing in advance as they KEEP Negotiating.

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