Big Guns

Description:  Sometimes you have to bring in the “Big Guns” from within your own organization – but it’s a good idea to make sure your own house is in order first.

It is not uncommon to decide that  you need a little help from higher up in your own organization.  If you need more resources or a change in standard operating procedure to move your negotiation forward, then the only option is to move up the corporate ladder.

Two caveats here:  First, this only works when you have laid the groundwork and prepared your own organization in advance.  You can do more harm than good to your own position – and to your career – if you spring a surprise plea for help on a boss or partner who thinks you have handled this situation on your own.  Second, you have to be prepared for the possibility that your counterpart will try this move on you — using a variant sometimes known as the “hidden authority“.  This is when he responds to your proposal or counteroffer by telling you that HIS bosses have said this is the final offer, and he can’t make any changes to his position.

Intent:  Big Guns is about  credibility, authority, and power balance.  This tactic makes a weak negotiator stronger by accessing the power of someone higher up in the organization.

Style:  It sounds competitive, but in fact this is an avoiding tactic.  Your direct counterparty is claiming that he is not, in fact, in control of the negotiation, but is in fact subject to someone else’s authority — just like you are.  When you use this tactic, be prepared for a short-term win but a long term loss of prestige and credibility.

Counter  You counter his Big Gun with your own Big Guns.  There’s nothing wrong with raising the stakes of a negotiation by “kicking it upstairs” if that’s what the deal calls for.  Beware of the Hidden Power variant that seems to prevent him from making concessions or even sharing information.  You may have no choice but to walk away, but if you get the sense that he is honestly constrained by an internal chain of command, you can try a common enemy gambit to get him to share information and cooperate with your efforts.  At the end of the day, however, if he brings in a higher authority, you will either have to negotiate “up” (assuming his Big Guns have a higher status than you do) or bring in your own higher powers.

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