3 Scenarios to Practice Your Negotiation Skills

By Brandon Voss | December 10, 2018

There’s one commonality that all effective negotiators share: they consciously make the decision to negotiate in their daily lives. It may sound simple, but deciding to negotiate in real-life situations demands stepping out of your comfort zone. In reality, it’s uncomfortable. When you decide to negotiate, you risk feeling weird or awkward, regardless of your age, intelligence, or experience level. Choosing to negotiate also means deciding to be present, to focus your attention, and to engage with your environment and your counterpart in a more deliberate way—all of which can be hard to muster if you’re tired or simply not in the mood.

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Seven Seconds: How to Crush Your First Impression

By Chris Voss | November 26, 2018

How much time do you have to make a first impression? Seven seconds.

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How to Be More Persuasive Over Email

By Brandon Voss | October 29, 2018

Most people have mixed feelings about email. On one hand, it allows us to instantly communicate with people around the world without pigeons or morse code. It’s also the most ubiquitous form of business communication and a ritual part of our daily lives—for better or worse.

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4 Ways to Keep Your Sales Team from Offering Discounts

By Brandon Voss | October 22, 2018

There’s no denying that sales is a high-pressure, high-stakes game. When you close a big deal, you feel on top of the world. When you lose one, it’s hard to remember that you ever won. When you’re between the two, it’s dangerously easy to make concessions to get that coveted “yes” and avoid the sinking feeling that often comes with a “no.” But as we at the Black Swan Group often say, “yes” is nothing without “how,” and compromise is a relationship’s worst enemy. Teach your sales team these four tips to help them close more deals without relying on discounts.

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5 Tricks To Repair A Bad Business Relationship

By Chris Voss | September 10, 2018

The ability to repair suffering relationships is a vital business skill. Cultivating emotional intelligence and control will give you a competitive edge in the negotiation and empower you to be effective under pressure.

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5 Negotiation Techniques That Work

By Derek Gaunt | August 06, 2018

Our work and personal lives are filled with negotiations. Some are small negotiations, such as what movie to watch or who should be responsible for washing the dishes. Other negotiations are high-stakes, like major business deals or funding procurement. While losing your movie choice isn’t likely to have a lasting impact, negotiating key business deals can directly affect your organizational viability, growth potential, and job security. Believe it or not, both types of negotiations involve the same basic skills. Practicing those skills is the key to becoming more effective when it matters most. No matter what type of negotiation you’re facing, these five tried and true techniques will improve your likelihood of success.

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Fine-Tune Your Business Negotiation Skills in 6 Steps

By Chris Voss | July 31, 2018

To be a compelling and consistent negotiator, it’s important to keep learning new skills and evolving your approach as you grow. Even veteran negotiators can benefit from some expert tips. We’ve laid out six tried-and-true methods to help you fine-tune your negotiation skills and improve your effectiveness in business dealings.

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How to Gain Leverage During a Negotiation

By Derek Gaunt | July 17, 2018

In a negotiation, having leverage means that you hold a perceived advantage that could give you the upper hand in achieving the agreement you desire.

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The True Power of “Yes”

By Chris Voss | August 28, 2017

A flat-out “yes” is a scary thing to say.

“Yes” is commitment. People are constantly trying to use it to trap you. That’s why when someone asks you the set-up “yes” question, your gut tightens and you ask yourself, “Where is this going? If I say ‘yes’, then what have I let myself in for?”

So let’s recognize that and use it.

I was coaching a film-maker here in LA. She’s got a deal-killing attorney on the other side who is trying to insert terms to “protect” her client. What’s she’s really trying to do is kill the deal. (Unfortunately, all too common with attorneys advising on any negotiation they weren’t involved in crafting.)

So when in doubt, they ask for a term that will kill the deal. It’s a way to kill the deal without taking responsibility for doing so.

What’s your countermove? Pretty simple actually, a little tactical empathy, followed by a question they would love to say “yes” to, but never will.

 Here’s what we did here (and PS: there’s been some name-calling by the attorney at my client that had come unexpectedly during a phone call):

In the email:

“Just so I am clear, you feel that I am being dishonest with you.
… you're absolutely determined to kill this deal.”


Another great thing about this in an email is your counterpart attorney will NEVER put a “yes” to this in writing. And since the answer is going to be a “no” – and “no” tends to trigger, clarity and feelings of safety – you increase the chances to a ridiculously high level that you will break the logjam productively.

The answer:

“I have no desire to “kill the deal” but I am keen on protecting my client.
Nor do I think that you were dishonest with me – to the contrary, you honestly told me…”


The attorney then went on to propose a solution (which was do-able) and actually solved the problem.

Empathy precedes assertion. You want to be more effective? Use it.

I know some people might say to themselves, “But wait, I can see how this could go wrong. What if she’d said ‘yes’?”

Don’t do that to yourself, because that’s not the comparison for decision, though we do this to ourselves all the time.

The comparison is not “What if this goes wrong?”, the comparison is “What happens if I don’t smoke this out? What happens if I do nothing?”

The answer to that is “Look at what’s happening now.”

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting things to change.

Great negotiation calls for great emotional intelligence. Lasting deals and lasting business relationships call for tactical empathy. Empathy gives you the ability to assert. Quite often in very direct ways.

As the iconic insurance company advertisement once said: “Don’t leave home without it.”

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Like Seeing A Unicorn

By Derek Gaunt | August 21, 2017

Sebastian had spent most of the late morning into the early afternoon, one day in July, being exposed to the Black Swan method of labels and mirrors. Having already read “Never Split the Difference,” he was anxious to see and hear the practical application of the skills. Turns out, Sebastian was a quick study. As soon as the class concluded, he was chomping at the bit to see if the skills would bear fruit. That afternoon, he scheduled a phone call to negotiate the acquisition of a domain name. The seller anchored high with a five figure number. Rather than balk and counter, Sebastian used labels and mirrors to discover that it was most important to the seller for the domain to be used for a purpose in which he believed. Unbeknownst to the seller, this was Sebastian’s plan all along. Sebastian’s use of labels and mirrors uncovered other Black Swans as well:

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