Guerrilla Negotiating: 3 Keys To Protecting Yourself

When you're faced with a hard bargainer, knowing these three tactics will save you from falling for a bad deal.
December 04, 2012

I was selling my pristine 1969 Porsche 912. It was the crown jewel of my extensive car collection that I accumulated over the last 20 years. My asking price is high—$25,000—but I'm unreasonably hopeful (like many sellers) that someone will fall in love with the car and offer me $20,000, which is a fair price for the car.

A week goes by and no one calls. I'm thinking about reducing my price. Then it happens. It's a very polite man from the East Coast. He wants the car. After a short and very forgiving inspection, he looks at me and makes his offer. "If you include a full tank of gas, I can do $15,000, cash today." I balk. No way am I going to let her go that cheap. The man nods and smiles and thanks me for my time.

I got a familiar twitch in my left ear. Something was not right but I couldn't determine what it was. I got the feeling I was dealing with a guerrilla negotiator. A guerrilla negotiator can be defined as someone who does not play by the rules and whose technique and desired result may not be as transparent as yours. 

1. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Expect the unexpected. If you get a sense that the other side may have an unfair advantage, be prepared to call them out on it immediately.

A couple days go by and still nothing new. Then I get another call. It is a fast talking man (coincidentally), also from the East Coast. He says he is ready to come buy the car today. He can make me an offer from just the pictures and details that are online. A pause ensues. "If you drive it over, I can do $10,500." he adds. All of a sudden, $15,000 sounds real good. I politely decline.

2. It is often better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. If you are wrong, then apologize and move forward. But if you are right, it will put you a position of power in the negotiation to call the other party out.

The following day, I receive a call from East Coast man number one. He has reconsidered his offer and would like to offer $16,000 if he can get it right away. Then it hit me—this man is now in a position of power controlling both sides of the negotiation. Clearly the second man was colluding with the first to create a lower value for the car in my mind. It’s insider trading on a local level. Then once a lower value is established in my mind, the man calls up and makes a slightly better offer, which to me sounds great in contrast to the last offer.  

I allow for a long silent pause and then joyfully call the man out. “Your friend called and offered me $10,000. Maybe if you guys put your money together you can actually buy it?” I say with a half-joking tone and a little giggle. The man stumbles over his words, begins stuttering. He quickly hangs up to “answer an urgent call.” 

3. Establish a baseline during the first conversation. A baseline is the normal communication habits of the person with whom you’re speaking. Once you understand what is normal for this person, then it will be easier for you to spot when he or she deviates from the baseline norm. Any deviation from the baseline may be an indication that the person may be lying and should warrant further investigation.

In business as in life, it's important to be honest and to approach every negotiation with a sense of integrity and honesty. However, just because you're being honest and living up to a moral code does not mean that the other party is doing the same. For this reason, you must protect yourself.  

At the end of the day, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Gather the facts. Assess your intuitive feeling and go with your gut, and remember sometimes a good offense can be your best defense.

Read more posts about negotiating.

OPEN Cardmember Shaahin Cheyene is the President of Accelerated Intelligence Inc. (, the World’s leading manufacturer of brain health supplements. 

 Photo: Getty Images