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A to Z of Negotiation - J is for Justification

Recently, I was selling a sewing machine on eBay. It was pretty old and not in great condition so the listing price was a low $15. Given how the low the price was, I was pretty offended when I had a message from a buyer offering to buy it for $10. I mean seriously! What happened next though was a good bit of negotiation from my potential purchaser.

After I politely rejected the offer (saying that I was happy to wait two days for the end of the auction before considering their offer) the buyer came back with increased offer of $12 and an explanation for their offer – “I fix up vintage machines to teach kids sewing, this sounds like a cam problem, and parts unavailable so straight stitch ok. Have to travel 160kms for this one - hence my cheeky offer..”.

What the buyer has done here is provide a justification or reason for the offer they have made. Not only did this change my attitude to them – I was no longer offended by their offer – but, knowing why they wanted to pay a low amount changed my behaviour too. I responded by saying that I would leave the auction open but if it didn’t sell I was prepared to give them the machine for free. I could have chosen to get proof that what they said was true although frankly, for a $15 machine I was prepared to take the risk that they were lying.

If I was to give my buyer one piece of advice, it would be to give the explanation up front with the original offer. We know the human brain is primed to seek reasons for doing things (see the famous Photocopier study by Ellen Langer) so by just giving a reason for your offer, you increase the chance that it will be accepted.

Not only that, but by providing a logical reason for an offer that is below what the other party considers to be reasonable, you are able to mitigate any damage to the relationship.

Of course, when you are receiving an offer rather than making an offer, asking “what is the basis for that offer?” is a good way to move someone away from an unreasonable offer.

For more information about how to negotiate effectively, or for assistance with your next negotiation, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.

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