Negotiation Training: The Top 10 Black Swan Go-To Labels™

    

At Black Swan, we’re huge proponents of using Labels™ to arrive at the best outcomes. With an effective use of Labels, you’re able to unearth what the other side isn’t saying and identify a dynamic in the conversation that isn’t obvious. 

Keep reading to learn more about when, where, and how to use Labels to accomplish your objectives every time you sit down at the table.

Negotiation Training: The Top 10 Black Swan Go-To Labels™

Label all affect shifts.

Whenever you notice an affect shift—changes in facial expressions, gestures, body language, volume and tone of voice, laughing, crying, what have you—use Labels to figure out what’s going on. These may include:

     1. “It looks like something just crossed your mind.”
     2.“It seems like you’re uncomfortable with that.”
     3. “It seems like you’re hesitant.”

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When to use: Use these Labels when you have observed any shift in body language, facial expression, or tonality. The shift may have occurred during your use of Dynamic Silence™. Make sure you follow this Label with Dynamic Silence—and that you do not break the silence yourself.

Delivery: Speak with a downward inflection at the end. Alternatively, use a short hesitation just after the “It looks like” (or whatever the labeling portion of the opening is), and then upward inflect with a tone of genuine curiosity (a question mark sound) on the last word of the label.

Whatever you do, do not assume you know what’s behind the affect shift. Gently find out the why with the Label, which might be a Mis-Label, which is fine.

Label behaviors and statements you’re uncertain of or dislike.

Instead of asking “What did you mean by that?” or the accusatory “Why did you do that?” use these Labels instead:

     4. “It seems like you have a reason for saying that.”
     5. “It seems like you have a reason for ... (name the action).”


When to use: These can be particularly helpful when you think someone has said or done something wrong. This is designed to get them out of that behavior without making them defensive. A version of this Label was used to get a subcontractor to admit he had no reason for failing to perform on a construction contract.

General Contractor: “It seems like you have a reason for not doing the work?”

Subcontractor: “... No, I don’t.”

And the deal was then worked out.

Delivery: Use the same options as above.

Label at an impasse.

You’ve been labeling throughout the conversation and negotiation leading up to this point. You’ve summarized the situation thoroughly. All of a sudden, you’re stuck at an impasse. Turn to this Label next:

     6. “It sounds like there is nothing I can say to get you to change your mind.”


When to use:  If there is any hope of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, it is only if you have put “maximum effort” into building rapport and trust-based influence. This effectively becomes a mis-Label, and if there is any way to work out the deal, they will tell you. If not, they’ll say “That’s right,” and you will end on the best possible relationship terms.

Delivery: Use a calm, downward inflection.

Label at the opening after they have asked “How are you?”

     7. “It sounds like you have a place you want to start.”


When to use: Rely on this instead of the typical (read: boring and rote) “Fine! How are you?” The other side has a place they want to start. They’ve thought it through and that was actually the real reason why they asked “How are you?” They’re really trying to get a read on whether you’re ready to listen to why they called or agreed to the meeting in the first place.

Most people will be relieved that you respond like this. The others will be as well, though if they want the polite chitchat, they will pleasantly circle back to it and nothing will be lost.

Delivery: Use an encouraging and warm tone. Remember, your inner voice drives your outer voice. 

Label when they say the price is too high.

Labels are your friend whenever there’s any pushback on price. Because when it boils down to it, price is never the issue—value is. Next time someone pushes back on price, use this Label:

     8. “It seems like the value is just not there for you.”


When to use: This is often a mis-Label, and their correction will guide you on how to make a better deal. When you find out their answer, then you can decide whether or not to try to make a deal since you’ve made no counteroffer, nor have you made any sort of accepting statement. You’ve just moved on to exploring the possibilities.

And if they simply say “Yes” or “That’s correct” or “No, it’s not” or something else that gives you nowhere to go? Go back to No. 6 on this list.

Delivery: Speak with a downward inflection at the end. Alternatively, you can also use a short hesitation just after the “It seems like” and then upward inflect with a tone of genuine curiosity (a question mark sound) on the last word of the Label.

Label for Proof of Life™.

Not sure if there’s a deal to be had in the first place? Use these Labels in the opening conversation to save everybody time and cut to the chase:

     9. “It doesn’t seem like you’re ready to make a commitment (to us).”
     10. “It seems like you’re still shopping around.”


When to use: In at least 20 percent of your opportunities, the other side is either “kicking the tires,” looking for a competing bid to drive down the price or terms on who they really want to do business with, doing due diligence, or looking for free consulting. You need to know if you’re the fool in the game—or if you’re the favorite.

Delivery: Use the same delivery as No. 8.

When is your next life-changing Black Swan negotiation moment?

Next time you find yourself in the middle of a tough negotiation, keep these go-to Labels in your back pocket and use them as the situation warrants. 

For the best results, you’ll also want to come equipped with the Negotiation 9™, which you can learn all about here.

The Black Swan Group Negotiation 9

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.