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How To Negotiate With a Bogeyman

        posted by , August 16, 2013

You'd better brush your teeth or the bogeyman will get you!

The bogeyman is a mythical creature created by parents to scare their kids into good behavior or to keep children away from something dangerous.

The bogeyman has been around for thousands of years. There is a bogeyman in virtually every culture. For example, the Japanese have a river monster called a Kappa designed to prevent children from drowning in rivers.

The bogeyman has a close cousin: the negotiation strategy known as a bogey.

Definition: Bogey Negotiation Strategy

A bogey negotiation strategy involves pretending that an issue of no importance to you is very important. Later you give up on the issue in exchange for concessions.

Sales Example

A customer is buying an expensive tool from a software salesperson. The customer pretends that they must have the source code to the tool. They claim they never buy software without full rights to the source code.

The customer doesn't actually want the source code but uses the issue to score price reductions.

Salary Negotiations Example

You're negotiating salary with an employer. The employer knows that you have a young family and don't want to travel. They start negotiations by stating that 80% travel is a requirement of the position.

Later, they give up on the travel requirement if you'll accept a low salary.

The employer never wanted you to travel, it was a negotiation strategy.

How to Defend Yourself From a Bogey

The first step to defending yourself from a bogey is to detect it.

A bogey is usually something the other side knows you can't accept. If the other side is asking you for the impossible, it might be a bogey.

Researching the other side before negotiations can help you to detect a bogey. It's also important to read body language and tune your senses to any irregularities.

The bogey is essentially a bluff. It gives the other side more cards to play with.

Just like the bogeyman, a bogey can't hurt you when you know it's not real.

The defense against a bogey is to ignore it. Never give up a concession for a bogey.

Every time the other side brings up the bogey, change the topic. Avoid discussing it. After all, it doesn't exist.

Calling a Bogey

Since the bogey is essentially a bluff, you might feel tempted to call it.

In the context of friendly win-win negotiations, this is generally a bad idea.

Calling a bogey (e.g. "you don't care if I travel, you just want me to lower my salary!") can be interpreted as confrontational. After all, you're essentially accusing the other side of deception.

Instead of directly challenging the other side, it's often a good idea to gently indicate you're on to them. For example, smile every time they mention the bogey. Show with your body language that you have a feeling someone is pulling your leg.

A little humor goes a long way in negotiations. What could be more humorous than a bogeyman!

This is an installment in the ongoing series of posts called how to win at negotiation

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