How to Negotiate with Crazed People

Part of running a business is learning to work with difficult people sometimes. As a people-pleaser by nature, the thought of disgruntled clients ties my stomach into knots. That’s when you call in an expert negotiator, like the Numbers Whisperer herself, who manages even the toughest relationships with panache. Our guest expert, Nicole Fende offers up her best strategies for learning to navigate the 3 crazies you may face in your business. Enjoy!


Ever had a sales call turn into a shouting match?

Or a potential customer become convinced you are out to do them wrong at every turn?

Every Solopreneur and small business owner has experienced crazy selling situations. The times you are convinced the other person is a few shy of a six-pack.

Or as a good friend of mine says, “The elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top.”

How in the world does one deal with them?  Can you salvage the situation?  Or is it a lost cause?

How to stop the crazy (and make the sale).

Common Crazy #1 – The Screamer

We’ve all been on the receiving end of this type of “negotiation”.  The discussion may start out calmly, however at the first perceived slight the volume escalates quickly.

While I’d like to think they just might be hard of hearing (or dropped on their head as a child), the reality is this type of person likes to yell.

The Screamer honestly believes whoever yells the loudest gets the best deal.  Essentially this person uses words, volume and even physical proximity to bully.  Unfortunately it often works, as the other party just wants to end the situation, and may even fear for their safety.

Here are my easy tips to handle a screamer.

  • Do not tell them to calm down.  As sure as lighting a match on a fuse, the result will be explosive.
  • Do politely request they lower their voice.
  • Do not yell back at them.  This will only escalate the situation
  • Do ask them if they have a suggested solution for the issue.
  • Do not remain seated if they are standing.
  • Do inform them if they cannot continue the conversation in a respectful manner you will have to end the discussion.
  • Do not hesitate to remove yourself from the situation and consider calling the police if you feel physically threatened
  • Do remember that like my toddler’s temper tantrums, eventually they wear themselves out.

Having faced down a few screamers in my career I know that it can be hard.  The biggest surprise I’ve had?  Most screamers, once effectively blocked, will show significant respect in future discussions. (Buy me a coffee sometime and I’ll spill the deets. 🙂 )

Common Crazy #2 – The Purposefully Paranoid

Common phrases you’ll hear from this crazy:

  • Why are you charging me more?  Do you think I’m stupid?
  • Your competition sells this for half the price!
  • The quality on this item looks sub-par.
  • Why isn’t my price the same as Company ABC?
  • Do you think because I’m _________ I won’t see what you are doing?
  • Do I look stupid to you?

I’m sure you can add a few from your own experiences!

The number one thing to remember with The Purposefully Paranoid, it’s not personal.

Repeat after me, “It’s not personal.  It’s business.

While it’s hard to say if this person really should be wearing a tin foil hat, at a minimum they’ve learned that by attacking someone’s good name and character they can often get what they want.  Think about it, what better way to prove you’re not out to get them than to agree to their terms.

First, stay calm.  Indifference is even better if you can fake it.  Here are a few of my favorite responses:

  • Your price is more than the price quoted to another client because you’ve requested these extra services.  If we take them out I can give you the same price.
  • Perhaps you should consider using our competitor. I simply can’t make a profit at that price, if they can they may be better for you. (don’t be snarky, I know it’s hard but snark will backfire here).
  • We value all our customers, treating them with respect is important to us.  These are our best prices, and I can assure you of top quality.

90% of the time, after some additional grumbling, Mr. or Ms. Purposefully Paranoid signs on the dotted line.

Common Crazy #3 – The Pity Party

Direct quote “I have 8 kids to feed and business has been very bad.  Very bad.  Even at this price I am losing money.”

There are two ways you can deal with this.

Method 1: One-upmanship.  Trade them tit for tat on every sob story, horrific event, and personal tragedy.  Throw in the paper cut you got that morning for good measure.  Eventually you wear them down.  Or simply give up and walk away.

Method 2 (My favorite): My response is to acknowledge how awful that is (even if I think it’s all bull).  I tell them I couldn’t possibly cause them to lose money, so I’ll have to shop elsewhere.  I’ve even said, “Well then you shouldn’t sell it to me!” Amazing how quickly that price becomes acceptable.

Final Thoughts

What type of crazy have you seen when negotiating?  How did you handle it?  Want ideas for your common crazy experiences?


Numbers are on the run in small businesses everywhere. Nicole Fende is on a mission to free small business owners from the fear of finance and humor is her weapon of choice. As President and Chief Numbers Whisperer of Small Business Finance Forum draws on her worldwide experience in companies large and small to help businesspeople overcome their fear while making finance fun.

Need help taming your unruly profits? Check out Nicole’s latest offering, Peak Performance Profit Coaching. Whether you need Business Plan Financials, a Profit Co-Pilot, or just an hour of one-on-one coaching, Nicole’s services deliver stellar ROI.


  1. Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    One-upmanship?! I don’t know where you get these terms from, but they work – really, really well! I gave myself a pat on the back last week for having good negotiation skills. All it takes is being financially raped a few times…with some practice and confidence, you’ll master it.

    • Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink | Reply

      LOL Donna, I have my own “Numbers Whisperer” language.

      I know that the school of experience is the best teacher, I hope this will cement lessons or help people avoid at least a few of the pitfalls.


  2. Posted September 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you so much.

    To be honest I couldn’t stop laughing–because you hit the nail on the head! I only wish I’d read this 15 years ago, when I was starting out. I tended to take irrational comments personally and hold onto them for far too long. So many tears and so much stress over others’ silliness!

    Let’s spread the word far and wide: “It’s not personal. It’s business.”

    Thank you again!

    Kindest regards,


    • Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink | Reply

      Glad you laughed and learned!

      I wish I had known all this 15 or 20 years ago also. These are lessons learned from my experiences.

      The mantra of “It’s not personal. It’s business.” is crucial when the crazy starts!


  3. Posted August 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Rachel. Negotiation is a skill that can be developed like any other. Once you start identifying the specimens of crazy it becomes much easier!

    I don’t like the waiting either, but it is necessary. Try venting to a biz buddy, or do something fun to distract yourself.

  4. Posted August 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nicole – great guest post! especially for me coming off of a few negotiations. I love the pity party one — I think that this is also often found in life negotiations. When asked for volunteer time or emotional help some people always have it harder … these techniques would work well there.

    As for biz negotiations — the hardest part for me is the waiting in the back and forth. I put up a tough exterior, but inside — I am going NUTS! Rachel

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: