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July 3, 2021

Good cop or Bad cop: What is your negotiation style?


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In every business, whether it operates as a distributor of goods or on the provision of a service, a sole-entrepreneur, or a business with a team, there must be one or more people who interact directly with the clients. Negotiation is an essential skill that you, as an entrepreneur, must master to get the upper hand in any type of engagement whether it's with potential clients or company employees. In this blog post, we will look at two of the most common types of personalities and how they put their negotiation skills into practice.

One of the most well-known types of negotiation strategies stems from the “good cop, bad cop” concept. Borne from a popular interrogation technique in law enforcement, the good cop, bad cop negotiation strategy is a tactic whereby two individuals or parties, working as a team, extend a series of rewards and punishments to gain an advantage over the other side. However, there is one thing that businesses should keep in mind. Like most negotiation strategies, the good cop - bad cop negotiation tactic can also destroy trust between parties and harm your business’ reputation.

To get the most out of this technique, leaders need to know which type of negotiator would best suit their personality. So if you are someone who engages in sales, strategic partnerships, or human resources, here are a few characteristics that will help you ascertain what category you fall under.

You are likely a “Good cop"

You are a giver: You have an innate desire to meet clients’ interests and give as much value as you can. From giving free advice to making as many concessions as you can during negotiations, your main goal is customer satisfaction and you do everything within your power to achieve that.

You are friendly: You always wear a smile and are personable towards your clients. You show as much empathy as you can towards their situations. A lot of your clients like you for this reason and you are a regularly requested contact for your business or company.

You find it easy to influence customer decisions: Thanks to your amiable personality and the fact that you gently entice rather than abrasively coerce, you find it easy to make your clients see things from your point of view and persuade them to make the choices that you suggest.

There is an easy atmosphere in your workplace: If you are a boss in your workplace, or even just an employee or team member, the energy in your workplace will likely be pleasant. There will be honest and open communication, high productivity, and compassion between the people in your workspace.

You are likely a “Bad cop” 

You are business-oriented: You are someone who is only in the business world to make money, not friends. This can give clients the impression that you are a type of person with confidence who is capable of carrying out a particular task.

You are inflexible: You are not willing to compromise time and resources if they are beyond your contractual responsibilities. While this may be a good trait when it comes to your business principles, during negotiation, over the long run, it can deter potential clients from being willing to do business with you.

There is a strict culture in your workplace: If you are the boss in your workplace, then it is very likely that the same way you negotiate is the same way you treat your workers. This could mean that the energy in your working environment is tense, negative, and there is little to no freedom among your team members, especially when you are around.

You seem to repel customers: You have very few to zero repeat buyers or clients from the successful negotiations you have facilitated in the past. Getting terrible feedback from your clients can also be a sign that you came across to them as a “bad cop” during your business discussions.

As it is apparent to most people, the “good cop” strategy seems to offer a win-win situation for both client and agent. But there are some people who, owing to the nature of their business and the kind of clientele they deal with, believe that the “bad cop” strategy of negotiation is better. 

A “bad cop” negotiator goes against a lot of good negotiation techniques. Yet, there are many cases where a "bad cop" agent can't be fooled by a "bad cop" client - which is why in some scenarios following an aggressive, uncompromisable negotiation strategy will lend you the upper hand.Historically, however, approaching potential clients in an open, personable, cooperative, professional, and principled manner has generally proven to be more advantageous for a negotiator, no matter what sphere of business they are operating in.

It is paramount that, as a business person, you know the proper ways to conduct negotiations with your clients. Below, we look at some good general negotiation practices that will prove invaluable when you are working towards striking deals with possible clients:

Prepare adequately: Be clear with yourself on what you want out of the negotiation and do sufficient background research on your client to make it easier to shake hands with them.

Timing is key: Pay attention to what to ask for and when to ask for it. Take care not to push too hard or else this can raise some red flags to your client.

Listen: The best communication comes about when you listen, and the best negotiators are often quiet listeners who encourage the other side to speak first. Finding out what is going through the other party’s head makes for a good bargaining process, and doing so will help you tailor your words in a way that would make things end in your favor.

Aim high: Don’t be afraid to charge your client what you know is fair for the good or service you are providing, no matter how high. However, avoid giving ultimatums, such as “Take it or leave it!”, so you do not end up discouraging your potential clients.

Related: The Seller's Guilt: What is it and how can we manage it?

Be open to compromise: It is a good practice, during your planning phase, to predict what concessions you may need to make during negotiation, and whether you are willing or not to make them. This will make for better handling of certain conversations during negotiation.

Stay committed to your commitments: Only make offers that you know you will stay committed to until the end. Likewise, avoid deals where the other side does not demonstrate commitment.

Stick to your principles: And never ever let anything make you compromise on them.

After any negotiation, even if no final deal is struck, make sure to tie all loose ends. Ensure that all the points that were discussed are confirmed and follow up with any appropriate letters or emails. Make sure that all protocol is followed once discussions have been concluded.

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