May 08, 2021

How to get someone to bid against themselves

In a negotiation, the art of getting someone to bid against themself is by saying “no” without actually using the word. Using the word would indicate you’re not willing to work with the other person but by using calibrated questions and other indirect means, you can say “no” in a way that invites the other person to think of ways to sweeten the deal for you.

Here are three ways you can say “no” without actually saying it:

  1. “How am I supposed to do that?” or some version of the same question is the classic go-to first step. It must be said in a deferential way so that it becomes a request for help instead of conflict.
  2. “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” is an elegant way to say “no” after the first “no”. The use of the word “generous” nurtures your counterpart to live up to the word and “I’m sorry” softens the “no” and builds empathy. Ignore so-called experts who say apologies are a sign of weakness.
  3. “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.” It’s a little more direct than the last one.

Finally, if your counterpart still doesn’t have a deal that works for you, you can directly say “I’m sorry, no.” If delivered gently, it barely sounds negative.

By saying “no” in these ways and working with a counterpart who genuinely wants to do business with you, the offer should get closer to what you want with each successive “no”.