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Negotiation Strategies

Every day we are negotiating. Whether on a sales call, seeking a raise or dealing with our kids. I recently read James Altucher’s book Reinvent Yourself and he shared what he learned about negotiating from his interview with Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. Chris wrote a book about negotiation called Never Split The Difference. Here are negotiation strategies gathered from James’ interview with Chris. Many of the same points I learned negotiating as an attorney.

  1. The most important question is to ask somebody “How?” For example “How am I supposed to get a million dollars by tomorrow?” Open ended questions such as “How” or “What” get people to keep talking.
  2. Everybody tries to get a “Yes” first. Chris says get them to say “No” first. For example “No, I don’t want this project to fail.”
  3. List the negatives on your side. It shows you can empathize with them. In my trial lawyer days, I always brought out the opponent’s arguments before they got a chance to do so. It built credibility with the jury along the way.
  4. Try to show they may be powerless – If the negotiation is not going your way you can say “Sounds like there’s nothing you can do.” People resist the idea of being powerless.
  5. Use silence- people can’t stand silence. As the saying goes “let the silence do the heavy lifting”. Be quiet long enough and they will come up with something to say.
  6. When it comes to numbers in a deal Chris recommends letting them come up with the numbers first and stresses the importance of using very specific numbers.
  7. He also encourages us to make our list bigger than theirs. Say you are going into a negotiation with your CEO for your dept. agenda; if you go in with one option and then they say “no” where does that leave you? If however you go in with five and they say “no” to 3 you are way ahead of the game.
  8. Figure out your terms and conditions in advance. Don’t wing it.
  9. Chris also talks about mirroring, the power of information and using the deepest voice you can when negotiating.
  10. I can add to this list the importance of being able to walk away from the table. You must go into a negotiation with a Plan B. If you are stuck with only one option you have the weaker position. Knowing your “outs” is an important part of being a good negotiator.

There you have it, wisdom for your next negotiation!

All the best, Don

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