3 Ways You’re Stacking The Odds Against Yourself in Negotiations

    

At Black Swan, we teach our clients all sorts of tactics they can employ to achieve better outcomes in their personal and professional lives.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to flip the script a bit and talk about tactics to avoid. Here are three common negotiating tactics that make it that much harder for you to get the results you want:

  1. Cutting your price
  2. Emulating the lizards
  3. Not finding out

Let’s explore each of them so you can learn what to do to avoid stacking the odds against yourself.

instructor in a suit providing negotiation training

1. Cutting Your Price

The last thing a price objection is really about is price. Going there first is killing you.  

Your first and easiest response to a price objection is a Mirror™.  Repeat the last 1-3 words they just said with an inquisitive inflection.

Possible examples include:

    • You need a price reduction?
    • You need us to cut our price?
    • Our price is too high?

One of the smartest (highest-IQ-and-EQ) guys we ever coached made it a point to always mirror the other side’s demands. He said their response would tell him how firm they were or if there was any softness in their position. 

I’ve got a theory that people with both high IQ (I’m not one) and high EQ absolutely love Mirrors. I think they are fascinated with their simple elegance. 

A gentleman I was on a speaking panel with recently told me his 9-year-old twin boys have been listening to Never Split The Difference™ with him in the car, and they both love mirrors. I asked him if they’ve tested for high IQs, and he told me they were both very bright.

He also said they both delightedly point out to their mother every time they use a Mirror on her and it works. “Aha! I just mirrored you!” (Maybe you shouldn’t do that.)

If you need to, after your mirror, be prepared to pivot to value using Labels™

  • It seems like the value just isn’t here for you?
  • It seems like this just isn’t a good fit?

Remember, price is only one term. Great deals aren’t made from price, they're made from terms. Make a great deal and pivot away from price when it’s raised as an issue.

Stop making compromises.  Download our guide to negotiating contracts and learn  how to never settle »

2. Emulating the Lizards: The ‘Yes’ Momentum  

The lizards love talking people into things, and they love doing it via the word yes

The Black Swan Group has recently heard some seriously bad things about the timeshare industry. People are often talked into timeshares and quickly get sucked into a downward financial spiral they can’t escape.

The victims of these “opportunities” call to try to get some relief and end up even deeper in debt. I can just imagine that there are moments when mafiosos look at each other over a glass of wine and say, “And what we do is illegal?!”

The high-pressure salespeople—the slick con artists and their ilk—love the yes momentum and its twin, momentum selling. They love trapping people with yes. It’s a worldwide syndrome. Everyone has been talked into something via yes at one point in their life, and they still remember the sting.

There’s an African saying that someone who has been bitten by a snake is afraid of ropes.

When you start to build your case via yes, you will trigger that embedded reaction. It doesn’t matter whether your intentions are valid. 

What happens if you try to give a genuine hug of affection to a battered child?

People are yes battered. As silly as it sounds, your first (but not only) move is to change your yes-oriented questions to no-oriented questions™

3. Not Finding Out

I hate it when someone in a prep session says, “That’s a nonstarter. We can’t bring that up.”  

That person is a diva. They are really telling you they don’t know how to bring it up and are covering for their lack of ability. (Clue: The answer to bringing it up will be an Accusation Audit™.)

Sylvestor Stallone is still upset about not getting any ownership of the original Rocky. When interviewed, he said he was told he couldn’t have it, that it just wasn’t done. Who told him? His lawyer. 

His lawyer (who later dropped Stallone during a down period in Stallone’s career) didn’t know how to bring it up. So, instead of recognizing his own shortcomings and figuring it out, he saved his own face, putting himself before his client, and just didn’t ask. Look how that worked out.

You never know what will happen if you make your “ask” with some skill. Give something good the chance to happen. It may not be what you had in mind originally, but you will still be better off. Even if you get nowhere, going from wondering to knowing always leaves you better off.

When you don’t find out, you’ve beaten yourself. You’ve done their job for them.

How would you make this ask? An Accusation Audit followed by a no-oriented question.

“This is probably going to seem like a money grab. I’m probably going to sound like a stupid novice who doesn’t know what they are talking about. You’re probably going to wonder why you took this call in the first place. Is it impossible and offensive for ... ?”

As Kurt Vonnegut once paraphrased, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’” 

So find out what might be. And remember, a shot on goal is always a good shot.

negotiating contracts

Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.