Of all the messages negotiators could send to their opponent, few are as effective as the bracketing message. Like many things in our life, these messages are all around us. Regrettably they often go unnoticed and responded to improperly. I’m convinced that after reflecting on this tip, you will see them every day and respond to them differently.
A Message Worth Sending
A bracketing message could be explained as a written or oral communication sent by one party with the intent to create a limit
(anchor) or a set amount for their negotiating opponent to adhere to. A simple example of a bracketing message is the seller who says, “I can’t sell this for less than a $100, that’s what I paid for it.”
The message is that the $100 price has to be met for a purchaser to acquire the item. Notice that the seller is conveniently ignoring some key points. The seller may have overpaid for the item. The value of the item might have declined since the seller bought it.
Newer models may be available from other sources and will do more
yet cost less. Please understand, bracketing message are
Bottom line, it is up to us to know how to handle bracketing messages when we hear them. Years ago I heard a negotiating expert share this rule. “We should set our own brackets and challenge
brackets set by others.” That rule has really influenced me. I
do try to set more brackets and I am getting much better in recognizing and challenging brackets set by others.
In subsequent Negotiating Tips, I will share some specific opportunities and strategies for sending more bracketing messages and how to effectively respond to those messages sent your way.
Let me close with a two part homework assignment.
Part One: Look for a written bracketing message to challenge.
Visit a local store and look for a ‘marked down’ price tag. You
know the type that read, “Was $16.99…..Now $9.99″. Do you see the
bracketing message? Yep, it is that they have already given you a
discount and that $9.99 is the lowest they will go. That bracket would work on most people, but not on a good negotiator. What other message does that tag provide? Isn’t it that they want to sell the item and that they are negotiable?
Part Two: Complete your assignment by challenging the bracket.
Ask the store manager if you could have two of these items for $17.
Or offer them $8 for the item. Better yet, ask, “Is $9.99 the best you can do?” Be prepared, your offer may very well be accepted, so pick something you’d like to have.
Remember, good negotiators set their own brackets and challenge the brackets of others. They are messages worth dealing with effectively.