How to Add Power Negotiation Tactics to Your Sales Pitch

Remember G. Gordon Liddy?

He helped engineer the plan to break into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel during Richard Nixon’s presidency.

The break-in backfired. The burglars got caught. And eventually, Nixon himself had to resign.

Even though Nixon’s advisors knew there were big risks in Liddy’s plan, they went for it anyway. How did Liddy 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.

He made his final pitch for a “bare bones” version of the original – a version pretty close to what he had imagined in the first place before he pumped it up into the grandiose plan.

This one 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 reluctant to send him away with nothing …”

This is reciprocal concession in action. Both sides gave something, but Liddy got a big part of what he had wanted in the first place.

Here’s how it works …

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

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

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

Guess which group gave him the most money?

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

The study found that the third group was more satisfied with the outcome – even though they had given up more of the money. They were more satisfied because they believed they had controlled the deal.

You can apply this principle in sales copy.

How much are you asking for the product? Could it be worth more? If not, your copy needs to be stronger. If so, you can try this reciprocal concession technique by saying something like this …

“My publisher wants to charge you $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, he’s right. And I’m confident what you’ll get is worth at least 10 times that.

“But I’ll tell you what …

“Suppose one year of service cost you just $750. 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 very 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 cost you only $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, usually, you also get a customer who’s more satisfied after making the purchase.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to being one of the head copywriters for Agora Publishing and an AWAI Board member, John Forde shares insights into our business in his weekly e-letter, The Copywriter’s Roundtable. It’s a great resource for novices and pros alike. I highly recommend it … for the content as well as for John’s engaging and personal style of writing. To register, send him an email at:]

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Published: December 26, 2006

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