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January 17, 2019

Negotiating Tip 65: The Sugar Sandwich Walk Away

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

What's the proper way to break off negotiations and make our departure?  How do we structure proceedings that would allow us to come back and perhaps comfortably rejoin the negotiations later on?

There are a number of ways to walk out effectively, but perhaps none as effective as the 'Sugar Sandwich' technique.

When formulating exactly how you will walk away, remember your objectives. 

1. You want time to reevaluate your position.

2. You want (to force) your opponent to reevaluate their position and reflect on the fear of losing the deal.

3. And, you want to create an avenue and atmosphere for a cordial return.

I've never taken the Dale Carnegie courses, but friends who have, told me they teach the 'Sugar Sandwich' technique.  That technique holds that if you have to tell someone something uncomfortable or potentially insulting, sandwich it between two soft, friendly and polite statements.  That three part formula (sweet-sour-sweet) can work effectively as a technique to walk out of negotiations.  It gets the message across but leaves them with a sweet taste in their mouth.

An Example Might Help to Clarify.

You're negotiating with an appliance store manager over a pricy new refrigerator. It has all the bells, whistles and deluxe features. The item is just what you want, but the price is a challenge for you to accept.  Despite your effort to gain a price concession  (you've flinched, crunched, bracketed) the manager is holding firm. 

You've also employed the Power of Time by 'taking up a substantial portion' of the manager's time with endless inquiries about the item, the reviews, the features, the warranties, etc.  Again, no movement on price from the manager. You decide to employ your walk away technique in line with your pre-negotiation strategy. Using the 'Sugar Sandwich', it would sound something like this...

Sweet

You again grimace while examining the price tag and say something sweet,  "I have to admit this is a quality item and to have you (and your store) standing behind it is a great benefit.  Your good reputation precedes you.  That's why we are here today."

Sour

"But I can't see how I can justify paying that price for this model.  It's something I just can't get past." 

Sweet

"Look, you know what flexibilities you have better than I.  Could we both take a day or so to think about how we could put a deal together.  I'd really like to do business with you but will need your help to make that happen."

The manager might agree to the 'cooling off'  period or play 'hardball' and say the price won't change in a day or so.  Either way, smile ask for reading material about the item and thank him/her for their time.  Mention too that you will check back with him/her. 

Imagine what that manager is thinking as they watch you (and a sale) depart.  Is the groundwork set for your return a day from now?  Can you see an opening that conversation with "I'm still interested but can't get by the price?  Do you have any suggestions for how we can proceed?"

Now we can only predict so far as to how things will unfold.  To be sure, pressures unknown to us might tip things in our favor or away from us.  Even if we get no price concession, we can be assured that we did receive the best price possible.  Could you use the 'Sugar Sandwich?

Know that other walk away techniques are also available.  In the meantime, KEEP Negotiating.

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