Neil, the Service Consultant at the car dealer, said he would “love to provide me with a free loaner car” while they rebuilt my Chevy Tahoe’s transmission, but that his “boss won’t let him.” Neil said he doesn’t “have the authority.”

I said I understood but felt that, given my substantial repair bill, it was only fair for them to throw it in. I then told him I would be happy to discuss this with his boss. He said he would check.

What was he doing? Using the Higher or Limited Authority tactic.

How should you respond?

1. Explore your counterpart’s true authority

Early in the negotiation process, find out the extent of your counterpart’s authority. You don’t want to reach a “deal” and then find out your counterpart doesn’t have the ability to sign it.

Of course, your counterpart may not tell you their exact amount of authority. If they did, you would have a good idea, at the least, what to demand. But you often can find out their general level of authority by knowing their title and/or position and talking to experts in the field.

2. Match their level of authority

You usually don’t want substantially more authority than your counterpart because it often puts you at a negotiation disadvantage. While you might consider yourself more powerful as the decision-maker, those with authority often use it and concede. If you don’t have the authority, you can’t use it.

So if your counterpart has limited authority, consider talking to your boss or your client and ensuring that you also have limited authority. Then you can use this tactic too.

3. Move up the chain

Finally, if you have authority and your counterpart has limited authority (like me at the car dealer), move up the chain if you can. After Neil told me he didn’t have the authority to provide a free loaner car, I said I would be happy to talk to his boss. I knew his boss had this authority.

Ten minutes later, Neil came back with a free loaner car.

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