Secrets of a Master:
How to Add Power Negotiation Tactics to Your Sales Pitch

Remember G. Gordon Liddy?

He helped engineer a bone-headed plan to break into the offices of the U.S. Democratic National Committee offices during Richard Nixon's Administration.

The event backfired, they got caught, Nixon himself had to resign the presidency, and American history swerved down a path from which some say we've never recovered.

But Nixon's advisors knew there were big risks in Liddy's plan. So how did he talk them into it?

By using the power of something called "reciprocal concession."

Liddy first proposed the plan with a budget of $1 million.

"Ridiculous" said Mitchell, Magruder, and Dean. "You're an idiot."

A week later, Liddy came back with the "mission" budget trimmed to $500,000. Again, no go.

But Liddy now had them where he wanted them.

His final offer – a bare bones version of the grandiose original – could be done for just $250,000. They went for it. Even though the plan was just as risky as the first version.


Years later, Magruder said, "We were just reluctant to send him away with nothing …"

And that's not the only way to use reciprocal concession.

Back in the 1970s, writer/producer Garry Marshall knew he couldn't get censors to let him use the word "virgin" in a TV script for "Happy Days."

What did he do?

"I worked the word into the script seven times, hoping they'd cut six and leave me with the one I originally wanted. We did that all the time."

Yet another example:

At UCLA, they did a study where groups of students negotiated over a pile of money. They were told observers would measure their negotiation skills.

Beforehand, one student was secretly instructed to try three different negotiation tactics with three different sets of students.

With the first, he demanded all the money and wouldn't budge. With the second, he made a reasonable demand only slightly in his favor. With the last, he made the extreme demand and then backed off to something more agreeable.

Guess which group gave him the most money?

In every test trial, the third group was the most generous.


The study found that …

  • (a) The groups that "gained" the concessions felt like they'd created the deal and were now obligated to uphold it, even if they didn't actually force the concessions, and …
  • (b) The groups that felt like they'd brokered the concessions and controlled the deal were actually more satisfied with the outcome – even though they had foregone more of the money. Why? Because they believed they had controlled the deal.

I hope you're seeing how you can apply this principle in sales copy. Look to your sales letter.

How much are you asking for the product?

Could it be worth more? If not, then the preceding copy needs to be stronger. If so, then you can try this reciprocal concession technique.

For instance, something like …

"My publisher would like to charge $1,000 a year for this service. 'Just to get the same advice from a paid professional' he said, 'would easily run a guy four and five times that.'

"Honestly, I’m confident that what you'll get is worth at least 10 times that, too.

"But I'll tell you what …

"Suppose one year of service cost you just $600. That's the price I'm supposed to tell strangers when they come talk to me at the end of seminars. And that's actually a pretty good deal.

"However … you and I, we share a common interest here …

"So I've twisted my publisher's arm and worked out a special deal: One year of my service – with all the things we talked about earlier – will only cost you $500.

"Sign up for two years, and you'll get each year's worth of full service for an even deeper discount – just $450 per year. Doesn't that sound fair?"

Okay, 'nuff said. I think you get the idea.

By presenting an almost preposterous offer and then backing off to the real parameters of the deal, you get more agreement more quickly. And, often, a customer who's more satisfied after making the purchase.

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Published: January 28, 2002

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