Ploys are used by negotiators all over the world to manipulate the outcome of a deal in their favour. Ploys can come at any stage of the negotiation and we often don’t even notice them (especially if they are played by an expert!).

They are dangerous and frankly not the best way to secure a deal because those fooled once might not be so likely to be fooled again – or for that matter even want to deal again. They are limiting and can cause relationships to crumble. This doesn’t seem to stop many people using ploys, though, because they are often successful and give them an advantage in the negotiation process.

How, then, can you prevent being taken advantage of?

1) Recognise the ploy; a ploy recognised is a ploy disarmed. Now I don’t mean being able to identify the name of the ploy – you could spend the rest of your academic life reading about all the different types of ploys and what different negotiators have called them – but you need to understand that something underhand is going on. Do you feel that the negotiation is going a completely different way to how you expected? Do you feel pressured? Do you feel that you are going way beyond your expectations?

You need to be able to see that something isn’t right, take a step back from the negotiation for a moment or two and ask yourself if there is a ploy at play or if this is a genuine situation. Even by simply considering this you are becoming more aware of what is going on. Don’t simply be led by the other party. If there is a ploy at play, you now have seen it and can consider how to deal with it.

2) The best way to deal with ploys is to be well prepared. Many ploys are played right at the very start of the negotiation to knock you off balance, challenge your entry positions and create barriers to negotiation. By being well prepared, doing your homework and understanding what should or shouldn’t be expected from the deal will set you up with a great firm footing to challenge any early ploy attempts.

3) You can say no. Just because the other party makes a demand or pushes to close the deal quickly, doesn’t mean you have to agree. Even if you need to close the deal, make sure it’s on your terms, not theirs. You would be amazed how often a salesman will ‘extend their sale’ to get your business if you ask the right questions.

4) Trade for movement. Negotiators don’t just give in – they trade. So next time you are feeling pressured to sign now, get something in return for it. Whether that is an extra discount, something free or extended terms, make sure you get something for the movement they are asking for. If you give me some of this, then I could give you some of that.

5) Walk away. If, at the end of the deal, they try one last time to manipulate the outcome, you can still walk away. I’ve had deals almost ready to sign when the other side changed one (albeit important) aspect of the deal. It seems too good to lose the overall deal BUT if they are cutting away at your profit here, they will keep trying at every opportunity. Can you trust them not to ask for even more? Ploys eat away at the trust in the relationship. My advice is to think carefully about accepting any last minute changes and, if it can’t be renegotiated like point 4) above, to consider walking away.