3 Keys To Closing A Negotiation Brilliantly

closing a deal, negotiation.jpgThe last impression is the lasting impression.

We don’t remember things the way they happened. I’m sorry, but we don’t. We remember the most intense moment and… how things end.

Broadway has known about this forever – “Give ‘em a big finish & they’ll forgive you for anything” goes the adage.

“What about the 1st impression”? You might wonder. I remember my mom drilling into my head “If you don’t make a good 1st impression you may never get a chance to make another”. Not a false statement, but more pointed at the empty-headed teenager she was talking to.

Your game needs to shift once you’ve gotten past knowing how to smile, look someone in the eye and shake hands. Here’s how:

Key #1 – Tactical Empathy is Cumulative

Early Labels Set Up Late Labels

Get a good label out early – “It seems like you’ve given this a lot of thought” or “It seems like (XYZ) is important to you” are two examples.

One brilliant student from our Georgetown MBA class used “It seems like your hesitant about these projects for some reason” when a donor she was talking to showed her some body language and facial expressions that indicated hesitation.

That label triggered a key piece of information (a Black Swan) about preferences that my student could never have found through research.

Don’t Be Lazy

I’ve had some MBA students completely miss this cumulative concept of the tactical application of empathy. They waited until the end of a negotiation to use it – and had it fall flat.

Come on… really? If someone displayed no attentiveness, understanding, or insight throughout an interaction with you until the end – would it work for you?

We love the saying “Never be mean to someone who could hurt you by doing nothing.” The reality is that nearly everyone you deal with falls into that category.

If that’s true – then what is also true?

Everyone you deal with could help you in some way if they felt like it.

How do you get them to feel like it? Tactical empathy.

Key #2 – Control The Close

As hostage negotiators, we completely changed the direction of 2 major sieges by taking over the close. While I thought it was smart at the time, I didn’t appreciate how brilliant it was.

Chase Manhattan Bank

In the Chase Manhattan Bank Robbery, Lt. Hugh McGowan switched me into the primary negotiator’s role (after about 5 hours of negotiation). Among the insightful strategies he gave me was: “Whatever you do, you end every call.”

Our hostage taker had kept us off balance by continually putting us on hold abruptly. Hugh’s great instinct told him that was the key point for us to take over and regain the upper hand. The 1st primary negotiator, Joe Pirano, had done a brilliant job getting us to this point. It was now time to make a switch.

I made sure I ended every call from that point on, and I did it respectfully.

With Hugh’s strategy and coaching from the team (including Joe), I had the 1st surrender of one of the bank robbers about 90 minutes later. We ended the day with everyone out safely and all bank robbers in custody.

Tractor Man Seige

In the Tractor Man Siege in Washington D.C., Dwight Watson (aka “Tractor Man”) continually hung up on one of the negotiators with no warning. This was a constant barrier to developing rapport with him.

Vince Dalfonzo skillfully advised the primary negotiator – “Get him to agree to never hang up without saying ‘goodbye.'” That small tactical change (another type of Black Swan) paid enormous dividends in the rapport building process. We got Dwight out 24 hours sooner than he’d indicated he would surrender – under a conditional “green light” the entire time. If he’d had made the wrong move during one of his occasional fits of anger – it would have gotten him killed. We saved his life.

No Progress? Now The Close.

You’ve tried everything you can think of in this interaction. In this round: no agreement. How do you end?


Key #3 - Use a label.

It seems like it’s important to you to find just the right project match” was the close with the donor from the earlier Georgetown MBA student story. Remember, she was just trying to close to set up the next interaction.

“You understand me” was the reply. And with that, the donor wrote a check!

Another example. A Landlord/tenant negotiation.

“It sounds like there’s nothing I can say to get you to change your mind”

This was the close in what was to that point a failed landlord/tenant negotiation. The tenant (another MBA student) had failed in the renegotiation and was just trying to close well, so the landlord felt respected. (And he didn’t want to worry about ending on the landlord’s bad side. The tenant had used several labels earlier to get the negotiation started.)

“No. Here’s what I want.” And they made the deal!

Write that one down. More people have rescued victory from the jaws of defeat with that one. And… the tenant had used several labels earlier in the negotiation to reap the benefits of the accumulation of tactical empathy.

Here’s another one I love you should write down also:

“It sounds like you’re powerless here.” 

No one wants to be powerless. If you’ve been pleasant up to that point and have used tactical empathy throughout but still haven’t gotten anywhere, if there’s anything they can do for you, they will move heaven and earth to keep from being powerless.

Remember to:
  • Reap the cumulative benefits of tactical empathy.
  • Control the close: Respectfully & positively.
  • Have pre-selected labels in your back pocket.
Make it Rain!