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Negotiating Tip 90: Low Ball Offers

By John Hamilton

Don’t take them as an insult. 

The Low Low Ball

Tough economic times seem to bring out the bargain hunters and those who “low ball”.  You know the type.  They drastically go to the high side when selling or low side when buying.  And not a little bit, they go to the extreme.

They sometimes are emboldened by the hardships being experienced by others.  There’s no doubt that in times like this people tend to agree with terms below what they’d ordinarily expect. The question is, however, what should our reaction be when we are on the receiving end of a low ball offer.

Now desperation on our part might make even a low ball offer attractive but that’s rarely the case.  Oh, you’d welcome a deal, but not if the terms you’re presented with are borderline ridiculous.  

Let’s suppose you’re selling something and suggest a price and terms that are really close to current value and the market.  Your opponent, however, chimes in with that disgusting low ball offer.

Consider these options or a combination of them.

  • Counter by restating your original price or position.  Or counter at just one dollar toward your opponent’s low ball offer. That signals you’re willing to make a concession but not until a serious proposal is received.
  • Counter by not giving any verbal response at all.  Silence, with a slow frown and head shake, is so powerful and unexpected.  Don’t say a word.  It takes courage and nerve to pull off, but it tends to unhinge an opponent.  They quickly realize they’ve probably gone past the bargaining in good faith position.  Remember, the first one to speak, is the loser.
  • Withdraw your original proposal and replace it by asking for more.  In other words, counter their ridiculous offer with a ridiculous one of your own.  If they complain that you’re backing away from what was said earlier, reply by sharing that in light of their offer it is warranted.
  • Ask a question, such as “What possible benefit would there be for me to consider, let alone, accept such an offer?”  Such a question puts the focus on everyone’s need, we mean both parties need to achieve a win-win agreement.
  • Lastly, isn’t this a perfect time for a ‘crunch’ technique, such as,  “Is that the best you can do?”

Low ball offers will always be a part of negotiations.  Good negotiators know ‘when to say when’ and know that no agreement should leave them worse off than when they started.  

Plan your strategy, in advance in case you encounter that low ball offer as you KEEP Negotiating.