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Well, I guess I should say, don't offer to split the difference. There can be very good reasons to accept someone else's offer to split the difference, but there's never a good reason to offer to split the difference.
Let's say for example you're purchasing software licenses (originally offered at $70 per user and you originally countered with $40) and you've gone through a few rounds of negotiation and you've gotten the salesperson to where they've offered $55 per user and you're up to $45 per user. If you offered to split the difference, you've made a $5 concession if they accept and potentially you could be trapped into making a much larger concession if they come back for more (I'll get to this). So, in order to avoid falling prey to the trap of offering to split the difference, you ask them to offer one.
"But Mark, that doesn't make any sense, isn't that the same thing?"
No, it's not. Stay with me, the wording here is key!
So let's say we're at a point where the salesperson has offered $55 per user and is getting pretty sticky at this price, to the point where you don't think you're going to get them to move much more and you've moved up to $45. At this point in the negotiation, it's likely that the salesperson may be experiencing some deal fatigue. They likely want this deal to be over so they can close the sale and move onto the next one. In order to get them to make that $5 or more concession you need to employ 3 tactics.
"But wouldn't it be more fair to split the difference right at the beginning when you had the $70 offer and the $40 ask? Isn't what you're proposing unfair to the salesperson?"
Good question. Like compromise, splitting the difference on the original offer sounds fair, but it tends not to be. You see, it all depends on whether what you're offering or asking for is fair to begin with before you can determine whether splitting the difference is fair. What do I mean by this? Well, just by way of example, let's just say, that the salesperson sells licenses at $70 per user and you make me an offer at $40 per user. Splitting the difference at $55 a user sounds fair, right? It sounds fair because it's equal. What if I told you that the software was only valued at $45 per user when compared to the market? Is it still fair? Or have you grossly overpaid? So you see, unless you have really good market intel to support whether something is fair or not, it's pretty difficult to determine whether splitting the difference at the original offer is fair. And, don't you want to get better pricing than the market?
Folks, using this technique to draw an emotional response to split the difference takes practice and building up emotional attachment to the offer here to get an emotional response is KEY. Without building up that emotional attachment, you're not likely to get any concessions. Using emotion to build attachment and draw an emotional response is the only way that this works well. Never offer to split the difference, because you're likely getting drawn into the same routine. The goal is to get them to offer to split the difference.
And remember, practice, practice, practice.
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