• Jonathan E. Pearl

Negotiation Tactics 101: #3 "Snow Job"

A "snow job" is a particularly common tactic negotiation designed to confuse and distract you - and to tie up your resources. The American Management Association study of the most common negotiation tactics pegged "snowing" as the third most common tactic used (at 12%).

A "snow job" is when the other party dumps a lot of information on you, overwhelming you with facts and figures. When you’re on the receiving end of a "snow job" your biggest challenge is to determine what is really important and what is simply put there to distract you, or make you burn unnecessary energy.

The "snow" often features technical language, or other highly specialised data (like excel spreadsheets) that requires expertise in a particular subject area in order to understand it. Often you will have to devote significant time a resources to review the data and possibly even ask the party that gave it to you significant help to understand it. This is a particularly common tactic in difficult and protracted litigation where one party is responding to a Court order to disclose data to the other side. The party doing the "snowing" can legitimately say with a relatively straight face: "Well, YOU asked for it!".

The "snow job" can also the product of arrogance or possibly laziness on the part of the "snower". Sometimes in a mediation one party will wait until the day before the meeting and then send a huge bundle to the other side and the mediator. The intention may not be to overwhelm the other side and the mediator, but it often has that effect.

Fighting the "snow job" requires you to be firm on your negotiation stance. You need to get to the real issues. So ask specifically and consistently what is important in the information they have dumped on you. The key is not to agree to anything that you do not understand. That's the intended purpose of the "snow job" tactic. Pay close attention to what the other side are saying, and look for inconsistencies in their responses.

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