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Combating the Nibble

Published: March 2, 2014 | By Chris Mele |

What Is Nibble Negotiation

The Nibble is a negotiation tactic used in many cultures around the world. Just when you think you have a deal, the person on the other side of the table asks for “just a little more” that will nibble away at your margin. Even in America, where “a deal is a deal”, that won’t stop the buyer on the other end from attempting it.

What is the Nibble?

One example of a Nibble that we commonly ran into when selling software was this scenario: A salesperson worked a deal for weeks and finally the prospect agreed that the solution was right for their business. The prospect verbally accepted a one-year contract and the paperwork was sent his way. While the salesperson was jumping for the joy of reporting a win, a last-minute phone call came in. The prospect, upon closer consideration, now needed an extra feature promised to him that we didn’t have yet. Even though the salesperson discussed this missing feature with the prospect and the prospect agreed upfront it wasn’t a show stopper, apparently things changed overnight.

Basically in this scenario, the prospect was nibbling: the deal was 99% of the way there and he thought he could ask for something extra.

Why Nibbles Work

Nibbles in and of themselves aren’t good or bad — they just are. Even though the person being nibbled doesn’t appreciate it, nibbles work for many reasons:

  • A nibble is usually a tiny request compared to the overall deal. This can make it feel like a small, reasonable ask that is hard to refuse.
  • One party (usually the seller) has a strong desire to close the deal. Savvy negotiators know this and use it to their advantage, squeezing sales reps at the eleventh hour.
  • Nibbles are a last-minute request when the deal is that close to being done. No one wants to “blow the deal” after investing so much time and effort.
  • Giving certain customers a little more can engender good feelings and longer term relationships. Sometimes a nibble puts the salesperson in an awkward position they don’t know how to handle.
  • Giving the prospect the nibble they want sometimes make the prospect feel like they are getting a bargain – this can be crucial in some negotiations.

Combating Dangerous Nibbles

Probably the worst kind of nibbles are the ones that occur after the sale. These can come as requests for additional support or training (at no added cost). Sometimes the customer doesn’t ask — they just pay late. They may even demand more features, extra reports, custom features or other services they just can’t live without. 

You can combat some types of nibbles by choosing your customers carefully. You can also try:

  • Management approval is needed for the little “extras” after the deal is done
  • Resist the urge to concede by itemizing all the concessions you have made. 
  • Have a few concessions in your back pocket that can be used to respond to a nibble. Items that cost you little that have high value to the prospect like special reports is an example.
  • Use a printed price list for your products and services implying you can’t do things that are not on the price list. Some prospects will stop at nothing until they get what they feel is special consideration.
  • Make sure your sales process is clear on what is in scope and what is out of scope for the purchase.

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Chris Mele

About The Author Chris Mele

Chris is Managing Partner for Software Pricing Partners, where he and his team have launched some of the software industry’s most transformative monetization strategies. As a former software company founder and leader, Chris focuses on the impact effective licensing, packaging and pricing strategies can make on the most essential software company metrics: revenue, profit and valuation. Under his leadership, Software Pricing Partners has become an influential voice for growth-oriented software companies both large and small.


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