Business Negotiation January 12, 2016

Good Nibbles and Bad

Nibbles granted the other side may help them decide to close. There is nothing wrong with the salesperson selling an expensive suit to offer a free shirt or tie to move an undecided buyer toward settlement...

Nibbles granted the other side may help them decide to close. There is nothing wrong with the salesperson selling an expensive suit to offer a free shirt or tie to move an undecided buyer toward settlement. If the nibble offered is reasonable, it helps seal the talks and encourages future business. So also does a free sample of your work or an offer to expedite completion at no extra cost. These are what I call nibbles.

Not all nibbles pass that test, especially those that take place below the surface after agreement has been sealed. Such nibbles erode the spirit of the deal and, in time, undermine the agreement. The settlement, previously accepted as satisfactory by both parties, now tips the scale in favor of the nibbler. Enough such tips and the eroded deal is history.

People at work usually try to show they are nice, sometimes too nice for their own good. They give away “stuff” they shouldn’t. What is “stuff” in today’s workplace? Stuff, if you are an accounting supervisor, is a report your staff was asked to provide that you agreed would be put together not by your people but by the department serviced by you. By the time you learn about it months later, the report had done not by the other department as was intended, but by your staff. “Stuff,” if you are an information technology manager, is the extra programming given away by your people that was not included in the original scope of work promised and agreed to. It is the special effort by your group for which there was no budget provided.

If you, the purchasing person, agreed with the material receiving manager that receiving would be open to accept goods from vendors from 9 to 6 P.M. on Monday through Friday, then closing the receiving door at five is a nibble by material receiving you cannot abide. It forces suppliers to make an extra trip the next morning to deliver what may be a badly needed component or piece of equipment. All this is “stuff” or nibbles never bargained for, or authorized at the negotiating table, are examples of bad nibbles that slip into the deal and erode your expected satisfaction from it.

The best approach to unwarranted nibbles is to recognize them early and to politely cut them off as soon as possible. Nibbles will grow if unaddressed. On the other hand, if your business judgment says that a nibble must be stopped, or is too expensive to live with, ask the nibbler for something in return. That may stop the nibble or make it beneficial to both sides. There is an infinite demand for free nibbles. It’s amazing how placing a price on a nibble, even a small price, can reduce demand for nibbles significantly.

 
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