The Bluff

By Mark Jankowski

The Bluff is the single most difficult tactic to identify. It occurs when the other side says things such as: “I have no room to move”; “That is the best I can do” or “I have a competitive bid that is 20% cheaper.”

Most people trust that the other side is telling them the truth and if possible, drop their price. Ultimately, you may have to do just that, but most people would be more satisfied if they knew that the other bid was 20% lower and they did not just fall for a bluff. Here are some ways to test the bluff:

Ask for Documentation

Most people feel very uncomfortable using this technique because they feel that if they ask to see information in writing that they are calling the other person a liar.  Obviously you do not want to do this, so here are some ways to phrase the request for documentation:

  1. Apples to Apples.  Tell the other side that you need to see the bid to make sure that they are providing the same terms and conditions that you are.  You can say that “in the past” other people have undercut your pricing by using cheaper materials or by providing less service.  If you can see the bid, you can make sure that this is not the situation.
  2. Blame a Higher Authority.  “I certainly believe you, but in order to get the decrease approved, I need to take the competing bid back to my partners and show them so that they know the entire situation.”

Ask for Clarification 

Rather than reacting to the bluff, you might want to ask for clarification.  You can ask the other side to give you some time to double check your information, and ask them to take some time to double check their information.  Allowing for some time might make the other side feel nervous about continuing with their bluff for fear that they have scared you aware.  Also, by asking for both sides to take time to clarify their information and assumptions, you have provided the other side with an easier “out” to come back and say: “I have double checked and there may have been some problems with my assumptions…”

Call the Bluff 

Sometimes the only way to test the bluff is to walk away from the deal.  When doing so, you should be careful to leave the door open.  You can do so by saying: “We would love to work for you, but we cannot under those situations, but please keep in touch.  If it does not work out with the other person, we would still be interested in doing business.”   Keeping the door open in this way will enable the other side to come back to you.  Otherwise, they might be uncomfortable coming back to you for fear that they would seem untrustworthy because of their attempt to use a bluff.


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