Negotiations are an integral part of professional life, whether you’re closing a deal, discussing terms with a supplier, or negotiating your salary. However, it’s not uncommon to reach a point where negotiations stall, and progress seems out of reach. This impasse can lead to entrenched positions, risking not just the negotiation but potentially the relationship itself.

There’s a strategic approach known as invoking a “Higher Authority.” This tactic isn’t about dodging responsibility but about adding a layer of flexibility and strategy to your negotiations. I want to share the “why” and “how” of this technique.

The Purpose of Higher Authority in Negotiations

The core aim of the Higher Authority tactic is to introduce a psychological buffer between the negotiator and the decision-making process. By attributing the decision-making power to an unseen, higher authority, you create a distance from the inability to concede, shifting this responsibility to someone else. This strategy allows you to maintain a stance without appearing argumentative or jeopardizing the negotiation.

How the Tactic Works

The approach is straightforward yet effective. For instance, when faced with a request that you’re unable to meet—like a substantial discount or added services without additional cost—you might say, “I see the value in what you’re asking for, and I want to accommodate your request. However, I need to discuss this with our finance team to see if it’s feasible. Would you be against me circling back to you on that?” This statement accomplishes several things:

  • Buying Time: It provides you with the opportunity to consider the proposal more thoroughly or to consult with others.
  • Avoiding Direct Confrontation: It prevents a direct rejection, helping to maintain a positive relationship with the other party.
  • Reassessing the Offer: It encourages the other party to reconsider their demands, particularly if they believe the deal might be in jeopardy.
  • Negotiation Leverage: It can serve as a leverage point, potentially leading the other party to offer concessions to bypass the need for higher authority approval.

The Strategy in Action: A Practical Example

Imagine you’re in the final stages of negotiating a contract, and the client pushes for terms that you find unreasonable. Instead of outright refusal, invoking a higher authority offers a strategic pause, signaling your intent to find a solution while maintaining your negotiation position.

The Ethical Use of Higher Authority

While the Higher Authority tactic can be incredibly effective, it’s crucial to employ it judiciously and ethically. Overuse or perceived misuse can erode trust, making it less effective over time. It should be a genuine part of your negotiation toolkit, used when you truly need to consult or when strategic pauses can benefit the negotiation outcome.

Remember, reaching a stalemate in negotiations doesn’t have to signify the end of conversation. When you invoke a higher authority, you can create the space needed to navigate through impasses.

This tactic not only helps in managing difficult requests but also maintains the integrity of the negotiation process. Like all negotiation strategies, the key is in its thoughtful and ethical application, ensuring that it serves to facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding rather than as a mere stalling tactic.

I love working with our clients to assist them in winning more deals leveraging strategies like this one.

As a co-founder of The Constance Group, I'm at the forefront of revolutionizing sales and leadership strategies worldwide. Our difference? The proprietary "Sales Funnel©" methodology—an innovative approach that significantly enhances selling processes, complemented by our programs in leadership, negotiation, and sales development. Our distinct edge lies in our personalized approach. Prior to any keynote or workshop, I personally collaborate with stakeholders and attendees to develop a tailored, impactful program. This commitment goes beyond content delivery; it’s about crafting actionable insights that participants can immediately leverage for real-world impact. Rooted in behavioral science, our strategies offer profound insights into human behavior, empowering your team to navigate complex scenarios with positive outcomes. Our sessions are designed to be engaging and memorable, mixing potent messages with humor and narratives that not only resonate but also inspire lasting change.