In selling, we've been trained that getting potential customers and clients to say "yes" is the most important part of negotiation.
It's time to rethink that strategy.
According to Chris Voss, former hostage negotiator with the FBI and co-author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended On It, the most important part of negotiation isn't getting to "yes"; it's mastering "no."
Trying to convince someone to say "yes" – whether it's a potential client, co-worker, even your spouse – is like setting a trap, Voss claims. You're cornering the other person, assuming that the more yeses you get from them, the more likely they'll agree to a bigger "yes." Saying "yes" puts us instantly on the defensive because we've made a commitment. It makes us feel trapped.
Saying "yes" is a commitment; saying "no" psychologically protects us from that decision. If you say "no," you're a little more open to hearing what someone else has to say because you haven't committed yourself. It creates empathy. Once you've protected yourself, you're more open to listening.
This advice is counter-intuitive to what many of us learned over the years in professional selling – try for quick yesses – get them nodding yes!
The next step after "no," says Voss, is getting your prospect to say "that's right." Summarize how they feel and what the circumstances are so that they know you understand them and you're both in perfect agreement. This also helps you determine what latitude you have in making a deal. Negotiation is about finding how much latitude each party has and how much is on the table. You want to know what you've left on the table. If your prospect is willing to collaborate, they'll share information with you that they wouldn't have if you were just trying to get them to agree. If you can get the other side to share the information that makes a difference in negotiation – Voss calls them "black swans" – you can make a better deal than one you originally had in mind.
The next time you're meeting with a hot prospect, try turning around your question designed to say "yes" into one that's designed to say "no" and see what happens.
I found the book fascinating and the suggestions are working. In addition to reading the book, I had the pleasure of hearing Chris speak at a conference. If you haven’t read this book and are in sales, be sure to put it on your list and read it before the year is over.
Lori Richardson helps mid-sized companies grow revenues by solving key issues in their sales department - like recruiting, retention, diversity hiring, process, pipeline and leadership. She speaks at CEO groups on topics of sales growth. Clients include companies in the technology, telecom, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services industries. Subscribe to the award-winning blog, follow her on Twitter
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