The Worst Phrases Event Planners Can Use in a Negotiation and What to Say Instead- Tony Perzow

The Worst Phrases Event Planners Can Use in a Negotiation and What to Say Instead



You've invested a lot of time and energy to get to a verbal "Yes." Then, your client or vendor drops this on you:


"We want to do business with you, but you need to do something about that price."

Or this:

"Everything looks good, but I just need to make a little revision to the contract…"


Think about how you'd respond. What would you say that could help you win at this point in a negotiation?


Average event planners cave at this point. They'll take what they can get, so long as they close the deal.


Excellent event planners overcome their fear of saying no and use key negotiation phrases that protect profit and still get the deal done.


By the end of this post, you will know:

•    Why you need to be skilled at negotiation

•    Two overly-used negotiation tactics

•    Phrases to use to win a negotiation, and when to use them

•    Overcoming the fear of saying "no."


Here we go.


Why You Need to Be Skilled At Negotiation


Here are some findings from a two-year negotiation study from Huthwaite International:


•    Companies with no formal negotiation process had a 63.3% decrease in net income

•    Companies with a somewhat formal negotiation process had a 16.2% increase in net income

•    Companies with a formal negotiation process experienced a 42.5% increase in net income!


Sticking to a formal negotiation process is worth your time.


But the same study also found that 80% of the participating companies had no formal negotiation process. And 75% of the companies had no negotiation planning tools.


They weren't helping their employees plan for negotiations.  The deal could be for $10 million, yet their negotiators would still spend just 30 minutes to an hour preparing to negotiate.


That won't cut it. When it comes to negotiating, the lack of preparation will hurt you.


Skilled negotiators understand that most Event Planners do not plan and prepare for their negotiations and will use two widespread tactics to win:


1.    The Squeeze

2.    The Nibble


The Squeeze: When your Adversary Asks for a Price Reduction After Being your Best Friend


Buyers and Sellers will use The Squeeze in negotiations because it works. It's a surefire way to get untrained event planners to decrease or increase their price.


The Squeeze is where the buyer or seller nurtures the event planner, tells them just how much they want to work together, and gives them hope.


Then, at the last minute, they say something that puts all that hope at risk. For example:


"We like you, but you need to do something about that price."


Please Don't Ever Say: "Where do you need us to be?"


As an event planner, this is the worst phrase you could use. It sends the message that there is some flexibility in your pricing, which gives your adversary significant leverage. You also risk losing credibility.


For example, if you agree to a 10% concession without putting up much of a fight, your adversary may wonder why it was so easy. Could something be wrong with the event?


How to Respond to The Squeeze


Responding to The Squeeze can be intimidating. But I've got six steps for you


  1. Confidence (or at least fake it)


Be confident when facing The Squeeze! You've come far in this deal, and your adversary just said they like you. Use that.


What you should do:


•    Be Brief! Top negotiators use about 102 words to explain their pricing or position, while unskilled negotiators use roughly 144 words. Brevity exudes confidence.


•    Speak in the first person. By using "I" rather than "we" phrases, you'll humanize yourself and enjoy more success in your negotiations.


•    Use phrases like "approved price, approved budget, or approved fees," which implies a higher power than you when it comes to setting the price.


•    Pause after the pricing component of your presentation. Top negotiators pause for an average of 2.1 seconds, signaling unwavering confidence.


  1. Utilize "The Clinger"


How do you stand out from your competition? When your adversary says, "We like you, but you've got to do something about that price," cling to the number one differentiator that you uncovered during all previous conversations.


The clinger is the top thing that makes you different in your adversary's eyes. Any mention of a concession should trigger a pivot right back to this number one differentiator. Cling to it with your life!


  1. Ask Questions


You may feel awkward during the negotiation process but avoid rushing through it. Instead, when your adversary asks for a concession, take that as an opportunity to get more information.


Here's an example of what a skilled Event Planner should say:


"I understand that pricing is something we need to address. But before we do, I'd like to make sure I completely understand your needs—that way we'll know we're doing everything we can to make this deal as valuable as possible for you. Is that all right?"


What you should do:


•    Find out what's essential to the other party. To put them at ease, ask for permission to explore their needs further.


•    Ask the client or vendor open-ended questions. Get them talking. The more they talk, the more you'll learn about what is truly important to them. Begin each question with one of these three phrases to ensure elaborative answers:


o "Can you help me understand…"

o "Talk to me about…"

o "Walk me through…"


•    Have the courage to pry into their personal affairs. What they don't tell you reveals a lot!

Every question you ask is like a mini negotiation. Questions are the equivalent to demands, and answers are the equivalent to offers. The bigger your question, the bigger the answer. Begin your prying question with this phrase to increase the likelihood of an answer:


o "I invite you to say 'no' to this question, but [INSERT QUESTION]"


•    As Dr. Chester Karrass used to say, "Ask questions like a country boy." Don't be too perfect and polished. People are more likely to answer your questions if they feel comfortable and not intimidated. Be Columbo, not Tom Brady.


4. Use the "If-You" Rule


This countermeasure emphasizes perceived value. It allows event planners to concede without really having to concede.


Here's an analogy: Say you go to a deli or a Chinese restaurant, and you pay for your meal at the counter. Often, there's a bowl of candy by the register. People tend to take more than one piece when it's free.


However, if the restaurant were to charge 25 cents for every piece of candy, people would be less likely to grab a handful of sweets. Suddenly, they perceive the candy as being of value, and they become more cautious in their decision-making.


Similarly, event planners should avoid simply giving their product away without asking for something of value in return.


What you should do:


•    Trade with your adversary for something of value when they request you make a concession. 


•    Only concede if you get something in return of higher value to you! If your adversary declines the opportunity to trade, guess what? Your price goes right back to where it started.


5.Trial Balloon


The Trial Balloon is an advanced tactic for skilled negotiators. When your adversary says, "We like you, but you've got to do something about that price," consider this response:


"Can you help me understand what you're looking to achieve with that concession you're asking for?"


What you should do:


•    Consider conceding if they provide lots of information and detail. Then, you can trust what they're saying, and you know they're sincere. If you do concede, remember the "If-You" rule (why not get something back in return, even if it's an I owe you one).


•    Avoid conceding on price if your adversary stumbles over their answer. If they lack evidence in support of their request, stand your ground. They were digging for a deal.


6. Considered Response


When your adversary asks for a concession, take some time to think. Let a few minutes go by, make it seem like you're mulling over their request, and tactfully say "no."

What you should do:


•    Tell your adversary you need a minute. Then, pull out a calculator or a pad of paper, and spend some time looking like you're trying to make the numbers work.


•    Make eye contact with your adversary, and gently tell them that you can't accommodate their ask/demand. They'll be more satisfied with your "no" in this case because at least they tried.

The Nibble: When your Adversary Keeps Asking for Lots of Little Things Right Before Signing the Contract


Like The Squeeze, The Nibble preys on your reluctance to take risks. The Nibble is when the adversary asks for small concessions at the very end of the negotiation process.


Regardless of the specific ask, professional "nibblers" will make these requests over and over and over again.


Don't Say This: "Yes, not a problem!"


Event Planners need to understand the cost of the little things they give away. They also need to know how these costs impact their operating profit. They need to care!


How to Respond to The Nibble:


It's well worth preparing some of these five phrases and tactics to avoid giving up too much ground.


  1. Firm Position


If your adversary asks for a slight change to the terms and conditions, your response might be as simple as a diplomatic 'no.' For example, you could say:


“It’s against company policy to change__________________.”


It's highly unlikely that your adversary will walk away at this point. Instead, they'll likely shrug their shoulders and move forward with the deal anyway.


What you should do:


•    Take a firm position. Tell your adversary that as a rule, you can't accommodate what they're requesting.

•    Use legalese phrases like "policy," "procedure," and "regulations" to discourage your adversary from pressing the issue. These phrases will imply that your position is non-negotiable.


  1. "Are You Kidding?"


This approach is ideal for one-off negotiations. If you're hoping to enter a long-term partnership with your adversary, think twice before using this strategy. You may come off a little abrasive.

What you should do:


•    When your adversary asks for a slightly bigger deposit, make eye contact and say, "Are you kidding?"


•    Speak with conviction. When most people nibble, they feel shame about it. Your response will remind them of that.


  1. If-You Rule


The If-You Rule is the same tactic we discussed in "The Squeeze." It works just as well in response to nibbling adversaries. Essentially, you are turning their small Nibbles into small opportunities for you.


  1. The Power Of Time


This negotiation tactic is surprisingly effective. If your adversary wants you to throw in a little extra something for free, or if they request a small change to the payment schedule, let them know they'll have to wait a few additional weeks for the deal to go through if they want to proceed with their ask.


Here's how you could phrase a response:


"Not a problem, we can do that for you, but because we're now changing the structure of this deal, I'm going to need to get our agreement revised by legal. It shouldn't take more than a few weeks."


What you should do:


•    Stand firm. Let your adversary know it'll take quite a bit of time to give them what they want.

•    Keep in mind that most people don't want to wait a few weeks for something insignificant like a change in terms or a slight change to the schedule. And if they do, then maybe it's worth making the concession.


  1. Limited or No Authority


Similar to the power of time, you can dissuade your adversary from pushing their request by letting them know it'll add time to the negotiation.


The next time your adversary requests a seemingly insignificant concession, think about using a simple phrase like:


“I don’t have the authority to change____________________.”


What you should do:


•    Don't back down. If your adversary then asks to talk to someone who does have the authority to update your contract, let them know you'll gladly put them in touch—but it might take a while for the person to get back to them.


•    Be patient while your adversary contemplates their response. Chances are they won't want to wait, and they'll agree to the current terms.


Now let's recap what we've learned:


You've just read a summary of negotiation tactics, and phrases Event Planners should avoid in negotiations, as well as phrases you can use strategically in your next deal.


In closing, here are three takeaways:


•    Take the time to invest in negotiation training, practice, and preparation. Research shows your bottom line will thank you.


•    Brevity is your friend. Be concise when you discuss your pricing during a negotiation; use "I" phrases whenever possible. Pause after you finish talking.


•    Saying "no" may feel uncomfortable. However, by understanding different negotiation styles and by using the phrases in this article as a point of reference, you can do so with confidence.


What are your thoughts on this article? Which parts of the article surprised you? Did anything validate your existing beliefs? Did you find these insights into negotiation tactics helpful?

Tony Perzow: Negotiation Expert, Acclaimed Speaker, Author and Experienced Business Leader Entrepreneur

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