If I… Will you?

Whenever someone asks me about a particular negotiation point or tactic, I always tell them to remember the following phrase and to use it in every negotiation:

“If I…. will you ….”

For example,

“If I drop the set-up fee, will you be able to sign this week?”
“If I can get my boss to agree to the price reduction, will you agree to extend your contract from 12 months to 18 months?”
“If I commit to adding this feature in a future release, will you allow us to use your logo on our website.”

It’s a simple idea of negotiation where you each get something, but I find thinking of always phrasing the question in this way, forces you to think about the negotiation process in the right way.  And, it always reminds you to make sure that every time a prospect/customer asks you to give on something, they should know that they are expected to give on something.  That something may be as simple as giving you the order, or another non-cash item, but they are expected to give in order to get.

What you should never do, is give up something for nothing.   When a customer asks for a feature, a reduction in price, a concession of any kind, they are trying to move the process forward (or stalling).  This is your opportunity to also move the deal forward the way you want it to (or determine that this deal isn’t real).   If you really always want to sell a win-win solution, then when your customer/prospect asks for something, you should be getting something for that too.

Negotiations are rarely easy, but I find that remembering the simple “If I… will you”  phrase keeps my brain in the right mode of thinking.

  • VerifyED

    This is so timely! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  • VerifyED

    This is so timely! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

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  • vivsharma

    This is a great tip Mark! To me this is the single most important phrase in a negotiation. Could I suggest a minor variation though. The folks at ScotWorks (great negotiation training btw) have suggested this form:

    “If you {do this thing for me}, then I will {do this other thing for you}”

    The key here is that you put your request to the customer *before* you tell them what you will concede. The reason is that if you tell them what you are giving up first there's a good chance the customer is already distracted by it (they just got a concession!) that they don't pay as much attention to what they have to give up.

    Mark, *if* you respond to my comment *then* I will tweet out a link to this great post. Great article as always.

  • Vivek,

    You are offering up a subtle variation on it, and I get your point. Overall, the idea is the same – get something for everything you give up. Depending on how the conversation or the negotiation comes up would depict how you phrase this.

    In my example, the person has asked you for something. So… they say to you, “Can you waive the set-up fee?” Your response is, “If I waive the set-up fee, will you commit to paying for a year up front.” I don't think it changes much if you change the phrasing to, “If you pay up front, then I will waive the set-up fee.”

    Your point is valid if they don't specifically ASK for a particular concession. I was coming from the vantage point of a concession that is asked for – and responding to that.

    Either way – the key is to ALWAYS make sure that any and every concession is a give on both sides.

  • vivsharma

    Good point if it's in the context of an asked for concession. I do find the “if you do this then” (pause for a couple seconds so now they're really curious to see what they're getting) “I will do this” to be a super-effective method.

    Now let me hold up my end of the bargain and tweet this out! 🙂

  • Vivek Sharma

    This is a great tip Mark! To me this is the single most important phrase in a negotiation. Could I suggest a minor variation though. The folks at ScotWorks (great negotiation training btw) have suggested this form:

    “If you {do this thing for me}, then I will {do this other thing for you}”

    The key here is that you put your request to the customer *before* you tell them what you will concede. The reason is that if you tell them what you are giving up first there's a good chance the customer is already distracted by it (they just got a concession!) that they don't pay as much attention to what they have to give up.

    Mark, *if* you respond to my comment *then* I will tweet out a link to this great post. Great article as always.

  • This is a great tip Mark! To me this is the single most important phrase in a negotiation. Could I suggest a minor variation though. The folks at ScotWorks (great negotiation training btw) have suggested this form:

    “If you {do this thing for me}, then I will {do this other thing for you}”

    The key here is that you put your request to the customer *before* you tell them what you will concede. The reason is that if you tell them what you are giving up first there's a good chance the customer is already distracted by it (they just got a concession!) that they don't pay as much attention to what they have to give up.

    Mark, *if* you respond to my comment *then* I will tweet out a link to this great post. Great article as always.

  • Vivek,

    You are offering up a subtle variation on it, and I get your point. Overall, the idea is the same – get something for everything you give up. Depending on how the conversation or the negotiation comes up would depict how you phrase this.

    In my example, the person has asked you for something. So… they say to you, “Can you waive the set-up fee?” Your response is, “If I waive the set-up fee, will you commit to paying for a year up front.” I don't think it changes much if you change the phrasing to, “If you pay up front, then I will waive the set-up fee.”

    Your point is valid if they don't specifically ASK for a particular concession. I was coming from the vantage point of a concession that is asked for – and responding to that.

    Either way – the key is to ALWAYS make sure that any and every concession is a give on both sides.

  • Vivek,

    You are offering up a subtle variation on it, and I get your point. Overall, the idea is the same – get something for everything you give up. Depending on how the conversation or the negotiation comes up would depict how you phrase this.

    In my example, the person has asked you for something. So… they say to you, “Can you waive the set-up fee?” Your response is, “If I waive the set-up fee, will you commit to paying for a year up front.” I don't think it changes much if you change the phrasing to, “If you pay up front, then I will waive the set-up fee.”

    Your point is valid if they don't specifically ASK for a particular concession. I was coming from the vantage point of a concession that is asked for – and responding to that.

    Either way – the key is to ALWAYS make sure that any and every concession is a give on both sides.

  • Vivek Sharma

    Good point if it's in the context of an asked for concession. I do find the “if you do this then” (pause for a couple seconds so now they're really curious to see what they're getting) “I will do this” to be a super-effective method.

    Now let me hold up my end of the bargain and tweet this out! 🙂

  • Good point if it's in the context of an asked for concession. I do find the “if you do this then” (pause for a couple seconds so now they're really curious to see what they're getting) “I will do this” to be a super-effective method.

    Now let me hold up my end of the bargain and tweet this out! 🙂