July 16, 2018

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How to Use The Contrast Principle in Negotiating

Whenever I take my seven year old son to the toy store, we always have a set budget for each trip beforehand to minimize impulse purchases. "Seven dollars, Dagsen. That’s it for this trip," I said to him as we were walking out of the house. Surely we could get a handful of matchbox cars that would appease his monstrous toy appetite for another week.

"Seven dollars, Daddy?" He responded, seeming surprised at such a low amount. "How about a hundred-fifty dollars for the toy budget?"

"A hundred-fifty dollars, Dagsen? Do you know how many toys that could buy? That’s a whole year’s worth of toys. No, son, not a hundred-fifty dollars."

"Well how about fifteen dollars, Daddy?" I paused and thought about his counter for a second. "Okay, fifteen dollars," I replied, thinking that this amount suddenly seemed like a bargain for me. Yet it didn’t occur to me until we were leaving the neighborhood that my son had just tripled his net toy profit for the day, just by using one of the principles of influence.

The contrast principle is a powerful way to increase the odds of you getting what you want in your next transaction or negotiation. Here’s a search example. I’ll never forget the time I presented an exceptional superstar candidate to a client. He had done much more than my client was expecting to find in the market, had a strong and sharp presence and was someone that I would put in the ‘Slam Dunk’ category of candidates.

The response from my client? "Looks okay, Scott. Let’s see some more candidates."

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought to myself. Do you know how hard it is to find someone this strong and this motivated to make a move to your company? But from this situation, I learned a powerful lesson. Whenever I find an exceptional candidate, I always present at least one or two others at the same time or within a day or two. All the candidates will fit the specs of the search, but that superstar shines just a little bit brighter and it keeps my client from wanting to see ‘what else is out there.’

Here’s an exercise you can do with your colleagues at your next training session to learn more about this powerful and simple principle of influence. First, visit Dr. Robert Cialdini’s site to learn more about the principles of influence. Then see what sort of solutions your team come up with in the following scenarios.

How can you use the contrast principle. . .

  1. When negotiating fees.
  2. When explaining your value compared to other recruiters.
  3. When trying to overcome candidate concerns about moving forward.
  4. When trying to overcome candidate counteroffers.
  5. When trying to overcome client concerns about moving forward with a candidate.
  6. When trying to convince a candidate that they should consider your client’s opportunity.

- Scott Love

Get Scott's Recruiter Training Video Clip, "Three Steps to Bigger Billings" at and learn the secrets of high performing recruiters.

Scott Love shows recruiters how to achieve success by following a simple and step-by-step system. His recruiter training website has many free articles, tools, and downloads that can help you bill more. Visit

Copyright © 2008 Scott Love