How to Deal with ‘Bad Buyers’ during Sales Negotiations

By Ago Cluytens for

You told your manager, “This deal is done.” You marked it as “won” in your CRM system. You start calculating the commission and tell your significant other you’ll take them to dinner at that fancy new place downtown.

And then there’s that dreaded voice mail from your buyer: “Need to talk. Something came up.”

And just like that, your buyer throws a last-minute wrench into the works. Maybe they introduce a “bad cop.” Maybe they claim to be “on your side” but need some final concession made. Or maybe they’re using one of the other 18 tactics buyers use in sales negotiations.

The fact is that deal that was oh-so close is now oh-so-very far.

You sense something’s up. Your experience and your gut tell you that something isn’t quite right. But just because you sense something doesn’t mean you know what to do about it. After all, just being able to call the plays doesn’t make you a world-class baseball player.

As a former financial services executive, I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve seen the games people play (on both sides), and I’ve seen what can happen if the situation isn’t dealt with instantly and fairly.

Here are six steps you can take to keep deals from going extinct and bring them back to health.

1. Call it like you see it:

The first and most important thing is to tell your buyer clearly and calmly that you sense something isn’t quite right. The best way to do that is by simply stating observations, facts, and figures. Don’t blame or “give them a piece of your mind.” If they are playing games, they won’t care. And if they aren’t, you’ll look like you’ve jumped to conclusions. For now, simply state the facts as you see them.

2. Tell them how you feel:

Where the first step is to simply state facts, this next step is where it’s OK to talk about how you feel. Tell them how their actions impact you and your company. Make it personal, and make it relatable. Tell them how you’re surprised to see something like this come up so last minute. Tell them you wonder what happened or are confused, even, about what could have caused a dramatic turnaround at such a late stage in the process. Sharing how you feel makes your buyer understand that their actions are not without consequences—and those consequences are both personal and impactful. In short, it shows you’re human, too.

3. Suggest an alternative:

Suggest an alternative or share a counterproposal. Don’t limit yourself to just one, but try to find two to three options to put on the table. This will increase the chances that your buyer and you will find one that meets everyone’s needs, as well as divert attention away from the (unacceptable) proposal they’ve just made and focus on something more positive and mutually acceptable.

4. Check back:

Check back to see whether one of the options you suggested would be acceptable to them. If one of them is, great. If not, ask them if they could provide another suggestion. At this point, it’s all about expanding the range of options so you can find one that is mutually acceptable to you both.

5. Share the benefits:

If and when you come to a mutually acceptable solution, walk them through the benefits (for example, you’ll be able to move the deal forward, get them the results they seek, help them make the internal sale, etc.). This is important because it will both reinforce their commitment to the chosen option, and it will give them the “ammunition” they need to sell your proposal internally to the other stakeholders for the project.

6. Ask for commitment:

Finally, ask for a commitment—ideally a (small) short-term one. This could be a presentation to their CEO, an email indicating their agreement, or a signed Statement of Work. This last step is key in ensuring action is taken, and it’s a first step towards a mutually acceptable—and agreeable—solution that has now been firmly put in place.

Following this simple, six-step process will ensure you close deals more easily, more profitably, and with less resistance. And you’ll get that hard-won deal firmly back on track.

Grimes, McGovern & Associates provides expert advice during all phases of a transaction. Contact us today for a confidential consultation: John McGovern, CEO,, (917) 881-6563 or Julie Bergman, VP, Newspaper Division,, (218) 230-8943.

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