Negotiation Tip – Nibblers and How to Deal With Them


When negotiating, you need to watch out for nibblers and know how to deal with them.  Nibbling is a common negotiation technique, is subtle and can be expensive if you are not careful.  

Nibbling is simply asking for extras after the deal is struck.  Here are a couple of examples.  If you are buying a suit, asking for the tie to be thrown in after you agree on a price.  If you are selling an appliances, like a washer and dryer and you have agreed on the price and the customer says if you will throw in free delivery he will buy them.  You are offering a program and your client accepts it and then ask for a free consultation or an extra meeting, you are being nibbled.  Asking for a final concession(s) after the deal is struck is a smart tactic.  Generally it is something you would charge for, but it is not a deal breaker.  The other person knows this and may deliberately wait to ask for this as a nibble rather than part of the give and take of negotiation.  the reason it works is because you think you have closed the deal and you feel good about it (so your perspective has changed) and two you see victory about to be snatched away by saying no.

Nibblers also show up after the deal and you are performing the work.  If you are doing design work and they have approval of the product and you will do two revisions, they will ask for a third, fourth or an unlimited number of changes.  Building a house, they will ask for a different (read more expensive) finish, extra trim work or a change in materials that may cost the same, but requires more labor.

Once you realize you are being nibbled, how do you stop it?  First, when negotiating, just say no.  You want to start with a gentle response, maybe humoruos to show you are not offended and want to complete the deal.  Simply saying ‘I’m sorry, but I cannot include that at the price we negotiated, I really gave you such a good deal.” should stop them in their tracks.  Your message is “You got a good deal, don’t push it.  Another way is to ask for a concession in return.  They want you to expedite delivery, ask them to expedite payment.  If they react negatively, you can play innocent and say: “Oh, I thought you were reopening negotiations.  This is a stronger response, but it lets the other party know that you are wise to their game.  Finally, you can call them on it and say: “Hey, it looks like you are nibbling here.”  

During performance, you can use the same tactics.  Saying no is the easiest.  for instance if you are providing a design service, let them know that three changes are all they get and any more will be charged at your hourly rate or “$X” per change.  Reminding them of the deal is helpful.  Asking for a concession on their part will equalize the deal and discourage further nibbles.  If the nibbler realizes that he/she will be asked for something in return; they will be reluctant to ask for freebies.

One way to avoid serial changers is to have a written contract, and a good, clear and definitive task list or statement of work and then call them on it if they ask for more than you agreed to. 

We all like to give value for our services.  If you want to fudge a little and give them an extra when they ask for it, nicely let them know you are doing it as an extra or because they are a good customer. This is a good way to remind them they are at or past their limit and this is a one-time favor.

Some nibblers are innocent and don’t realize that they are asking for extras, others see it as a way of doing business.  Either way, you can stop them or use their nibbling to your advantage.  Have you nibbled?  How did it work out?  Have you been nibbled?   Did you let them have a bite or did you stop them?  I would like to hear about your nibbling experience.

Subscribe to Bill's Blog.

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed or by email.


  1. Love this concept of nibbling…and boy have I seen you use it when we buy cars and houses, too! LOL LOL.

    • Guilty as charged. I remeber the time the car saleswoman called me out on it. She said” I had haggled so much on the new car deal there was no money left in the trade.” I took it as a compliment. 🙂

  2. This is great advice. Being prepared and having a firm strategy (and mindset) in place makes a lot of sense.

  3. Great blog post, Bill! I’m going through this right now – your information is very timely and very helpful!

  4. Great article, Bill. The thing about allowing people to nibble at your deal is that pretty soon you have no resources, time or energy to give the people who are actually paying for what they get. Not a good way to keep clients…or your sanity.

    No Nibbling!

  5. Bill
    The nibbler term is new to me and I love it. If you want to see nibblers in action, just go to Africa! I grew up there and it’s known for wheeling and dealing aka nibble-ing!
    I also really like the example you give and how best to respond – very nice! And I’m totally on board with having a contract.

  6. Great advice, Bill. Many women entrepreneurs that I work with are dealing with people who test their boundaries in this way. Sometimes you just have to say, “no” to nibblers and not allow even one more bite. Love the “nibbling” concept, by the way.

  7. I just returned from Georgia and am familiar with the concept on a literal level…. I was fishing with live red worms and the fish were nibbling. At first it was cute and I appreciated their interest and was happy there were fish around, but after 10 worms being nibbled and no fish on the hook, I was frustrated! So, people who first give in to nibblers may feel good about going above and beyond, but as your business grows, you will feel taken advantage of, so Bill’s suggestions give you your power back!

  8. Agree! Especially when selling into a package. Be clear on what is in the package and what is extra.

  9. Bill, you provide some excellent insights into “nibbling.” Good description and good tips to avoid this in negotiations.