I read last weekend of the sad loss of Peter Falk, 83, an actor famous for one particular part he played. That of Lieutenant Columbo, the scruffy, cigar smoking detective.
The TV programme which ran from 1971 to 1978 introduced us to Columbo, a short, shambolic-looking police detective who was always one step ahead of the criminal. He was famous for his catch phrase, “Just one more thing”, which he would mutter as he headed to the exit.
Let me tell you more about this because it is a magnificent example of how to negotiate in any situation. The negotiating tactic is called nibbling brilliantly demonstrated by Lieutenant Columbo
Colombo would ask lots of seemingly dumb questions to the adversary to make him feel he wasn’t under investigation and just as the criminal thought he’d been let off the hook and Columbo was about leave through the door, he’d come in with his cracker of a question. Because the criminal was off guard, he let Columbo have some vital pieces of information to help him convict him later.
This tactic can be used in negotiating. Once the person you’re negotiating with thinks you’ve stopped negotiating and have reached a deal, you nip in with one last concession request, and because they’re now relaxing, they will often give in to your minimal request just to keep the deal intact.
I’ve done this when buying cars to make sure I get a full tank of fuel in the car and with white goods to get a 2 year warranty, not just one year. The request is small enough to get a positive knee jerk reaction from them
So next time you’re negotiating, leave one concession request that you want out of the main discussion and bring it in just after the deal has been struck, and you’ll be amazed as to how effective this is.
Oh, just one more thing…let’s raise our glasses to a great actor and a magnificent negotiator – Peter Falk.