More than a third of purchasers prepared to lie when negotiating

26 September 2013

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27 September 2013 | Helen Gilbert

Buyers are twice as likely to lie during negotiations than sales people, new research has found.

The survey conducted by consultancies Four Pillars and Selling Interactions asked B2B buyers, sellers and those occupying dual roles a set of 12 questions to understand the tactics being used during negotiation processes.

Of the 143 people quizzed as part of The good, the bad & the ugly: dirty tricks in buying & selling report 53 per cent were purchasers, 23 per cent were sellers and the rest held both purchasing and selling roles. 

Lying was found to be an acceptable part of the negotiation process with 37 per cent or buyers prepared to tell an untruth, compared to 15 per cent of sales people. In addition, buyers admitted to being less honest in highlighting mistakes in their favour compared to counterparts in sales – 45 per cent versus 72 per cent.

However, the two professions differed markedly on their attitude to using ‘under the radar’ techniques such as the giving of a gift, flattery or withholding information to create obligation and influence deals. More than half (52.7 per cent) of buyers said they would not use methods designed to “soften” the other and make negotiations easier, compared to only 21.1 per cent of sales people.

Other findings showed that the two roles were prepared to use a range of ‘dirty tricks’ to stitch the other up. When asked whether they would do a deal which gave them a personal bonus at the expense of the other party, 35 per cent of buyers and 33 per cent of sellers said ‘maybe’. 

Meanwhile, the biggest bugbear for sales (76 per cent) was the restriction of access to decision makers, while purchasers disliked sellers ‘over-emphasising positives’ (69 per cent).

The report cautioned that while ethical behaviour may well have improved because of the UK Bribery Act and CIPS' ethical code, more than twice as many buyers believe lying is acceptable compared to sellers.

“Is this because the procurement profession is more systematic in its negotiation practices and is more adept at planning and using tactics?,” the report asked. “Is ‘bluff’ seen as all part of the game? Given the less than transparent behaviour in play from both sides, all negotiators must be prepared, sharp and ‘battle fit’ if they want to secure a fair share of the value.”

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