Managing Difficult Customer Tactics: Threatening to Go to a Competitor

David Chapnick and Logan Kessler

Perhaps one of the most common tactics sales people encounter when negotiating with customers is threatening to switch business to a competitor if they don’t get what they want; usually a discount, but can also be changing other business terms in some way. In negotiation theory this is called going to their “BATNA” or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, a concept first introduced in the book Getting to YES. Among all of the ways that each party in a negotiation can satisfy (at least some of) their interests without agreement from the other side, the BATNA is the best alternative, or the one that best meets one’s interests other than going to a deal. When sales representatives negotiate with customers or procurement professionals, the customer’s BATNA might be switching to a competitor to get a similar product or service, choosing to build that product or develop that service internally, or simply choosing to not make a purchase at that time. In any negotiation, what the salesperson is offering should be better than what the customer perceives their BATNA to be, otherwise they will rightly choose to do something other than buy from you.


Published in 2016