How Would You Negotiate If You Had No Authority…?

When we talk about what it takes to be successful in your next sales negotiation, we often talk about how much authority you can bring to your side of the table. Your basic goal needs to be to show up to the negotiation with as much authority as you can bring – you are “the man” as they say. You can make decisions, cut deals, and even make concessions. You can do whatever it takes to make a deal happen. It turns out that we may have gotten this all wrong – maybe what we should be doing is showing up with no authority…

Why Having No Authority Is A Good Thing (Sometimes)

I can’t tell you how refreshing it can be to have absolutely no authority whatsoever when you are involved in a negotiation. This is often a good situation to be in when you are negotiating on the behalf of others.

If you had authority, then the other side of the table would reasonably be able to expect you to negotiate with them. Part of this would involve you giving in to some of their demands. Since you have no authority, you really can’t do this.

We encounter negotiators who have no authority all the time. Think of the last time you went to the supermarket. If you decided that US$3.00 was too much to pay for bananas, then could you corner a supermarket employee and try to bargain with them? No way – they don’t have the authority to lower the price of bananas.

How To Use Your Lack Of Authority

Instead of thinking about your lack of authority as being a handicap, try to view it as what it is: a powerful negotiating tool. What’s going on here is that when you have no authority, you get to play a different role in the negotiation.

I would argue that most car salesmen play the “no authority” role. They are able to present you with the car and they can even add and remove standard option packages in order to help you configure the car of your dreams.

However, when it comes time to talk price, they are pretty much helpless. They can ask you all sorts of questions about why you don’t think that the stated price is a fair price for the car. They can work with you to understand how much you can pay for a car. However, what they can’t do is agree to lower the price of the car.

The only person who can do that is the car dealership manager. The car salesman who has no authority over the car’s price simply acts as a conduit to the manager. He’ll take your price request up the line and come back and tell you what the decision was.

By not having full authority to make decisions, the car…

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