This is based on an article in one of our Recruitment Matters International newsletters which was provided by Huthwaite International.

Here is the most commonly used dirty trick.

It goes as follows:
The other side tells you that they have an alternative supplier or prospect waiting in the wings, ready to do a deal on much more favourable terms. When you ask them for details, they appear reluctant to disclose who the competitor is, often citing ‘ethical grounds’, ‘company confidential’ or ‘financially sensitive’ reasons.

Their purpose in doing this is obvious – to make you feel you’ve misjudged the market. There is a competitor out there that you weren’t aware of. How embarrassing!

If you’re not careful you’ll make a concession to save face and put yourself in a more competitive position.

In reality, they have invented the competitor with the express purpose of rattling your cage. That is why they claim confidentiality when you ask who the competitor is and what the competitor is offering. If you have done your homework you’ll know who your competitors are and what they are likely to be offering so you are likely to recognise this trick for what it often is – a lie.

In some cases the competitor is real but the offering is not.

As with all dirty tricks, once you realise what they are trying to do, it is that much easier to handle it. If they have invented a competitor it is highly unlikely that they have gone to the trouble of inventing all the detail of the competitor offering. This is something you should be exploring. Try asking them about the detail of the offer.

“What kind of follow-up are they offering?”

“Does their cost include course writing, printed materials and travel expenses?”

Or try another tack.

“I need a strong case to persuade the board to do better. Could you give me more details?”

If the competitor or the offer has been invented, the other side will have difficulty answering questions about the detail of the ‘offer’ and it is likely to slide quietly off the table. If the alternative offer has not been invented the detail will allow you to judge whether they are comparing like with like, giving you the opportunity to highlight the advantages of your proposal or to come back with a comparable solution.