This concept – to refer to a Higher Authority – when mentioned outside of a negotiating context might be construed as calling on your Higher Power. Even though I would consider that an “always a good thing to do, that’s not what I’m talking about today.
By definition, authority is the ability to make a decision.
From a pure strategy standpoint, good negotiators don’t want to have ‘authority’ if they can avoid it because they know it costs them money.
How it costs you money not to refer to a higher authority
I read years ago about a small company who encountered some tax problems. The IRS wanted to meet with them to resolve some issues that would likely call on the company to pay additional taxes and penalties.
The company president, a Type A – Rambo Wanna Be – reacted by going in person to ‘handle this problem’. At that meeting as every issue was brought up the IRS pressed him to state what he was going to do about this or that. The president, a proud ‘decision maker/make the tough calls’ type of guy was painted into a corner on issue after issue.
What he should have done is sent a representative because they could have heard about the issues but never been pressed to decide, agree to do anything or offer a counter.
They wouldn’t have the authority. They’d have to go and check with/ report to/ run it by ____’.
Think of the power we’d have as negotiators if, when bargaining with the other side we say, “That sounds fair (good to me), but I’ll have to run this by ______”.
Clearing the Higher Authority
One of the best at using this tactic were the guys at “Pawn Stars”. If you’re familiar with the TV Show, Rick was always doing the “…i know a guy, let me call my buddy…”
Upon our return with input from our higher authority many issues can be creatively grouped, alternatives suggested, new issues introduced and a better result achieved. Without being the higher authority yourself, floating test balloons such as “…I don’t know that we can do ______ but if we did ______ [something close to what the opposite side wants], could you do ______?” It’s a way to gain concessions without commitment.
Who are the higher authorities? Common ones are a wife, a husband, parents, children, relative, friend, advisor, committee, board, manager, officers, attorney, investors, and so many more. It can be anyone. Who’s to say?
Be nice when you refer to a higher authority
Using the higher authority allows us to be cordial, even cooperative with our negotiating opponent while letting our higher authority be the ‘bad guy’.
I’ve known good negotiators that use higher authority in a department or an appliance store when trying to negotiate a better deal. They typically don’t leave and come back to the clerk with a counter offer.
They simply step away by stating, “Let me call ____ on my cell phone. I have to check with them before I can proceed.” This strategy will give you power even if you don’t actually talk to anyone. You know the clerk is watching and wondering if the news will be good. It typically activates their competitive senses.
Blocked by the Higher Authority
For years, real estate agents have been impacted by buyers and sellers who couldn’t decide on something until they ‘checked with ____’. Whether actual or not, going to a higher authority is an empowering strategy. In subsequent issues we’ll discuss the counter strategy to one who uses ‘higher authority’ against you.
In the meantime, look for more opportunities to use the higher authority strategy. It will structure more measured decisions, help minimize impulse buying/selling and help you to get more good deals.
I hope you learned from this article on how to Refer to a higher authority when negotiating and to learn other negotiating tips, use this link … Here’s a list of other negotiating tips