“Hidden Ways To Use Surrogates To Win More Negotiations”


When you negotiate, do you really know with whom you’re negotiating?


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Do you ever use surrogates in your negotiations? Used correctly, surrogates can enhance your negotiation efforts. If you don’t know how surrogates can/should be used and the benefits derived from doing so, read this article. You’ll never look at a negotiation through the same lens after doing so. Plus, your awareness will be raised when someone attempts to use surrogates against you.


Benefits of using surrogates:

Surrogates can gather insight that you may not wish your negotiation opponent to know your seeking. In some cases, if the other negotiator is aware of what you’re seeking, he can glean insight into how you might negotiate from a tactics and strategies perspective. By using a surrogate to gather such information, the surrogate can gain access to information that is valuable to your negotiation position without the other negotiator being aware of its value. You can use that insight at the appropriate time to get concessions that you otherwise might have forgone.


Surrogates as foil/shill:

Surrogates can also be used surreptitiously as foils to weaken the other negotiator’s offers/counter offers. This is accomplished by posing the surrogate as a potential power source in the negotiation. Then, when the opposing negotiator offers a point that you’d be willing to accept, the surrogate could say something akin to, “I don’t think that’s the best deal we (your team) can get. It has to be better.” Best case, you enhance your negotiation position by discovering the other negotiator is willing to sweeten the pot. Worse case, the other negotiator becomes annoyed with your surrogate and become ingrained in his position. At which point, you dismiss the surrogate from the negotiation, which will gain you points, if the other negotiator is not savvy to this ploy.


Surrogates as multiple negotiators:

Using multiple surrogates that appear to only represent themselves is yet another way to implement their use. When used in this manner they appear to be a single entity from which they’re negotiating independently. In reality nothing is further from the truth. Therein is the beauty as to why this tactic is so powerful.

I’ll use an example to highlight how you might employ this tactic. Imagine someone is selling a car in a very small market place were there’s not a lot of potential buyers. The seller lists his vehicle for $15,000. You assemble 5 of your friends for the purpose of being surrogates. On day one your first friend makes an appointment to see the car and tells the owner his price is too high and walks away. A few days later your second friend/surrogate looks at the car and he too says the price is too high. This time he asks the seller what his best price is. The seller drops the price to $14,000. Your friend says that’s still too high and walks away. This continues with your third, fourth, and fifth surrogate. In some cases, the seller will be lowering his price and worse case he’ll question himself as to whether his price is too high. Then you come along. The seller’s tired of having one person after another look at the vehicle and not purchase it. When you display a genuine interest in buying the vehicle, he’s delighted. By then he may have lowered the price by another thousand dollars or so. You can test his fortitude by asking if he can do just a little better on his price or accept it.


Surrogates as ‘advance team’:

If you tell your negotiation counterpart that you’re sending in the advance negotiation team and he agrees to negotiate with that team, he’s accepting your signal that this is phase one of a longer process. That can be good or bad depending on the time frame you have to negotiate, and the expected outcome. Also keep in mind, the longer one invests time and resources in a negotiation, the more likely one is to make unnecessary concessions as the negotiation drags on.

By sending in surrogates, you indicate that you don’t have time to negotiate and that the negotiation does not have the priority that warrants your initial investment of time.


As you can see, surrogates can serve in a host of ways. When used correctly, they can increase your negotiation outcomes tremendously. Before your next negotiation consider how you can employ surrogates. If you use surrogates, you’ll increase the probability of coming out further ahead in your negotiation … and everything will be right with the world.


Remember, you’re always negotiating! 




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