Trial Balloon

Description:  What if…?  One of the best ways to determine the other side’s BATNA is to sound like you are making an offer that is almost too good to be  true.

A hypothetical question that tests the water and determines the negotiator’s limits.   “What if I were to tell you that could double the volume – what kind of price would you be able to show me then?”   The Trial Balloon is an effective way to uncover a counter-party’s true bottom-line.   It sounds like you are offering to increase the scope of the deal — but through careful phrasing you are actually giving yourself plenty of wiggle-room.   The problem is that your counterparty is likely to hear the trial balloon as a solid offer — and when you back away from the implied promise to improve your offer he may consider you dishonest and manipulative.  Use this one sparingly — and only to uncover his bottom line.  This is NOT a relationship-builder.

Intent:  Uncover his true bottom-line.

Style:  Competitive.  Possibly avoiding (when you are asking for his single, best offer instead of engaging in bargaining).  

Counter:  “Is that what you are offering?”  “Would you mind putting that in writing before I take it to my boss?”

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