|If You Don't Feel You're Getting Enough Out of a
Negotiation, Nibble for More at the End
Power Negotiators know that by using the Nibbling Gambit, you can get a little bit more
even after you have agreed on everything. You can also get the other person to do things that she
had refused to do earlier.
Car salespeople understand this, don't they? They know that when they get you on the lot,
a kind of psychological resistance has built up to the purchase. They know to first get you to the
point where you're thinking, "Yes, I'm going to buy a car. Yes, I'm going to buy it here."
Even if it means closing you on any make and model of car, even a stripped down model that carries
little profit for them. Then they can get you into the closing room and start adding all the other
little extras that really build the profit into the car.
So, the principle of Nibbling tells you that you can accomplish some things more easily
with a Nibble later in the negotiations.
Children are brilliant Nibblers, aren't they? If you have teenage children living at home,
you know that they don't have to take any courses on negotiating. But you have to-just to stand a
chance of surviving the whole process of bringing them up-because they're naturally brilliant
negotiators. Not because they learn it in school but because when they're little everything they
get, they get with negotiating skills. When my daughter, Julia, graduated from high school, she
wanted to get a great high school graduation gift from me. She had three things on her hidden agenda.
Number one, she wanted a five-week trip to Europe. Number two; she wanted $1,200 in spending money.
And number three; she wanted a new set of luggage.
She was smart enough not to ask for everything up front. She was a good enough negotiator
to first close me on the trip, then come back a few weeks later and show me in writing that the
recommended spending money was $1,200, and got me to commit to that. Then right at the last minute
she came to me and she said, "Dad, you wouldn't want me going to Europe with that ratty old set
of luggage would you? All the kids will be there with new luggage." And she got that too. Had
she asked for everything up front, I would have negotiated out the luggage and negotiated down the
What's happening here is that a person's mind always works to reinforce decisions that
it has just made. Power Negotiators know how this works and use it to get the other side to agree to
something that he or she wouldn't have agreed to earlier in the negotiation.
Why is Nibbling such an effective technique? To find out why this works so well, a couple
of psychologists did a study at a racetrack in Canada. They studied the attitude of people
immediately before they placed the bet and again immediately after they placed the bet. They found
out that before the people placed the bet, they were uptight, unsure, and anxious about what they
were about to do. Compare this to almost anyone with whom you negotiate: They may not know you, they
may not know your company, and they certainly don't know what's going to come out of this relationship.
Chances are they're uptight, unsure, and anxious.
At the race track, the researchers found out that once people had made the decision to
go ahead and place the bet that suddenly they felt very good about what they had just done and even
had a tendency to want to double the bet before the race started. In essence, their minds did a
flip-flop once they had made the decision. Before they decided, they were fighting it; once they'd
made the decision, they supported it.
If you're a gambler, you've had that sensation, haven't you? Watch them at the roulette
tables in Atlantic City or Vegas. The gamblers place their bets. The croupier spins the ball. At the
very last moment, people are pushing out additional bets. The mind always works to reinforce
decisions that it has made earlier.
So one rule for Power Negotiators is that you don't necessarily ask for everything up
front. You wait for a moment of agreement in the negotiations, then go back, and Nibble for a little
You might think of the Power Negotiating process as pushing a ball uphill, a large rubber
ball that's much bigger than you. You're straining to force it up to the top of the hill. The top of
the hill is the moment of first agreement in the negotiations. Once you reach that point, then the
ball moves easily down the other side of the hill. This is because people feel good after they have
made the initial agreement. They feel a sense of relief that the tension and stress is over. Their
minds are working to reinforce the decision that they've just made, and they're more receptive to any
additional suggestions you may have.
Always go back at the end to make a second effort on something that you couldn't get them
to agree to earlier.
Look out for people Nibbling on you
There's a point in the negotiation when you are very vulnerable, and that point is when
you think the negotiations are all over.
I bet you've been the victim of a Nibble at one time or another. You've been selling a car
or a truck to someone. You're finally feeling good because you've found the buyer. The pressure and
the tension of the negotiations have drained away. He's sitting in your office writing out the check.
But just as he's about to sign his name he looks up and says, "That does include a full tank of
gas, doesn't it?"
You're at your most vulnerable point in the negotiations, for these two reasons:
- You've just made a sale, and you're feeling good. When you feel good, you tend to give things
away that you otherwise wouldn't.
- You're thinking, "Oh, no. I thought we had resolved everything. I don't want to take a chance
on going back to the beginning and re-negotiating the whole thing. If I do that, I might lose the
entire sale. Perhaps I'm better off just giving in on this little point."
So, you're at your most vulnerable just after the other person has made the decision to
go ahead. Look out for people Nibbling on you. Making a huge sale has excited you so much that you
can't wait to call your sales manager and tell her what you've done. The buyer tells you that he
needs to call purchasing and get a purchase order number for you. While he's on the telephone, he puts
his hand over the mouthpiece and says, "By the way, you can give us 60 days on this, can't you?
All of your competitors will." Look out for people Nibbling on you. Because you've just made a
big sale, and you're afraid to reopen the negotiations for fear of losing it, you'll have to fight
to avoid the tendency to make the concession.
Countering the Nibble when the other person does it to you.
The Counter Gambit to the Nibble is to gently make the other person feel-cheap. You have
to be very careful about the way you do this because obviously you're at a sensitive point in the
negotiation. You smile sweetly and say: "Oh, come on, you negotiated a fantastic price with me.
Don't make us wait for our money, too. Fair enough?" So, that's the Counter Gambit to the
Nibble when it's used against you. Be sure that you do it with a big grin on your face, so that
they don't take it too seriously.
So, consider these points when you go into negotiations:
- Are there some elements that you are better off to bring up as a Nibble, after you have
reached initial agreement?
- Do you have a plan to make a second effort on anything to which you can't get them to agree
the first time around?
- Are you prepared for the possibility of them Nibbling on you at the last moment?
So, Power Negotiators always take into account the possibility of being able to Nibble.
Timing is very critical-catching the other parties when the tension is off and they're feeling good
because they think the negotiations are all over.
On the other hand, looking out for the other side Nibbling on you at the last moment,
when you're feeling good. At that point, you're the most vulnerable and liable to make a concession
that half an hour later you'll be thinking-why on Earth did I do that? I didn't have to do that.
We'd agreed on everything already.
Key points to remember:
- With a well-timed Nibble, you can get things at the end of a negotiation that you couldn't
have gotten the other side to agree to earlier.
- It works because the other person's mind reverses itself after it has made a decision. He may
have been fighting the thought of buying from you at the start of the negotiation. After he has made
a decision to buy from you, however, you can Nibble for a bigger order, upgraded product, or
- Being willing to make that additional effort is what separates great salespeople from merely
- Stop the other person from Nibbling on you by showing her in writing the cost of any additional
features, services, or extended terms, and by not revealing that you have the authority to make any
- When the other person Nibbles on you, respond by making him feel cheap, in a good-natured way.
- Avoid post-negotiation Nibbling by addressing and tying up all the details and using Gambits
that cause them to feel that they won.
is the author of two of Nightingale-Conant's best selling
audiocassette programs, Secrets of Power Negotiating and Secrets of Power
Negotiating for Salespeople. This article is excerpted in part from Roger Dawson's new book -
Secrets of Power Negotiating,
published by Career Press and on sale in bookstores everywhere for $24.99.
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