This is a type of authority stall – you were not negotiating with the person who was ultimately the authority. Surprisingly, this happens in many business contexts, especially if a spouse (or friend, consultant, etc.) has a professional perspective. This tactic has stopped many a deal closing when at the last minute a party says they don’t have the authority to close the deal.
“For a purchase this large, I have to ask my wife,” or, “My husband is an M&A tax attorney and I want his input on whether I, as an executive, can sell their stock to the acquirer.” The way to stop this behavior initially is to ask for the party in authority to be present when negotiations begin. One author says what is really happening is that the negotiator has an objection to the deal and is not convinced this is agreeable[iii].
Handle this situation by finding out the objection to the deal and review each individual element to see what is acceptable. “Why is this not acceptable to the non-present party if you like it?” Or, “Why don’t we do it now, and then ask your spouse later? It is better to ask forgiveness than permission if you are convinced this is a good thing to do.” Also, “If this person is like my spouse, they would want you to have the things you want.”