The Best “1-2 Punch” In Negotiations

Even I had forgotten how effective this is.

The “late-night FM DJ” voice combined with “How am I supposed to accept that?”

I was just getting in some practice and was shocked when I got my way. I knew I had violated their “rules” and was technically asking for a refund after the deadline had expired.

I have a credit card with a fairly steep membership fee: $195. I obtained the card for the benefits – which were really good, but had since duplicated those benefits with other cards. I’d never actually charged anything on the card.

The annual renewal came up. I’ve got a habit of asking for the fee on many of my cards to be waived. Many of the credit card companies will do that for you if you’ve got a good track record with them and you’re not a jerk when you call.

However, in this case, I’d waited over 2 months (they want you to make the request within 2 months), and a number of late fees and interest chargers had accumulated.

I called customer service and using my “late-night FM DJ” voice and asked for the membership fees and all the late charges and penalties to be waived as I was closing the card. The customer service lady was very polite and explained to me that I’d missed the deadline. Despite that, she still waived some of the fees. She also said that the membership fee just couldn’t be waived since it was more than 2 months. 

I said (again with the “late-night FM DJ” voice):

“So you’re asking me to pay for something while I’m not receiving the benefits?”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

I actually had to go through this sequence with her several times. What we often don’t realize when we try something once and don’t break through, is we’ve probably still made progress.

And each time we make a little more progress.

We get the other side closer to giving in. At the same time, we’re afraid our efforts will be fruitless and are close to giving in ourselves.

 I actually felt like I was wasting my time and internally conceded that she had a point. I decided to press on anyway, just for the practice, and work to speak to her boss.

I’m a very big fan of Cindy Mori, who’ve I come to know in Los Angeles. Cindy has been Oprah Winfrey’s VP of Booking and Talent Relations for over 17 years.

One of Cindy’s rules is: Never take a “no” from someone who can’t give you a “yes.” Well, one of the main methods of accomplishing this is using a great calming voice while you gently persist.

When I persisted with my same approach, the customer service rep offered to have me talk to her boss. This is better than me asking for it for a number of reasons. The main one is any idea you get your counterpart to come up with (that’s what you wanted anyway) is always implemented better if they “thought” of it.

I sat on hold ready to repeat my approach with the supervisor one more time, but really feeling I was wasting my time.

The supervisor came on & said: “Mr. Voss I’ve waived the membership fee and all of your charges. I took a look at your account and see that you haven’t used the account all year. Thank you for being a customer, and please let us know if we can help you in the future.”

 I’m willing to admit I was a little bit stunned.

I’m so much in the habit these days of using labels I’ve gotten rusty on my use of “How am I supposed to do that?” and other calibrated questions. I’ve almost forgotten, due to lack of use, just how devastatingly effective “How am I supposed to do that?” is, especially when delivered with the “late-night FM DJ” voice.

 It takes more energy to get a rocket into orbit than it does to keep it in orbit. But it still takes some energy to keep that rocket in orbit, or it will fall back to earth.

 If the rocket that is you and your skills also doesn’t get some maintenance effort – you’ll get rusty and maybe even a little insecure about the use of the skills.

High stakes results come from low-stakes practice. Keep your skills up on low-stakes practice, even when you think it might not work.

 You may just be delighted with the outcome!