Understanding and outwitting deal-blockers

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Positioning is everything in negotiating, claims one expert, and three situations in particular cause deal-blocking.

It’s basic negotiation to consider your counterpart’s background in addition to what they’re actually saying. Actually categorising different backgrounds has been more difficult. Silicon Valley deal-maker Paul V. Weinstein, writing in the Harvard Business Review, has outlined the three positions that are typical of deal-blockers.

For experts (real and wannabe), “saying “no” is a simple matter of personal pride,” according to Weinstein: “these blockers are less powerful then they are respected — and they want to maintain that high level of respect”. Experts, which include lawyers, are worried about flaws because they know they’ll be easy scapegoats if something goes wrong.

As experts aren’t necessarily business people, so they care less about the “corporate upside” of a deal. Get to the detail, which is part of showing them the respect they desire, and show you can help protect them in the event something goes wrong.


Those who stand to gain an advantage from blocking fall into two camps:

The competitor – has another idea of how to do things, hoping to enhance their own profile. You need to find common grounds and mutual benefits to get them on board.

The doubter – “has nothing specific to gain by saying yes (he isn’t the champion), [so] he/she plays devil’s advocate”, argues Weinstein. You need to show doubters that saying yes will help their profile too.

Weinstein terms these types of blockers “traditionalists.” They’ve always done things the same way, and so their success is in some sense tied to that common course of action. Of your other way works, it undermines their reputation. If you show that your new method is the “new normal,” and showing they can benefit from it, you can get the traditionalist on your side.

Read Weinstein’s original blog on the HBR website.
  • Layth Matthews on 2014-11-06 12:58:34 PM

    This is a very interesting synopsis. I appreciate the value you are adding by surveying the landscape for ideas that might be relevant to good business. Thanks!

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