Chris Voss can tell you that negotiation isn’t limited to international relations or hostage rescue situations. Negotiations happen subtly every day, especially in business.
In fact, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, our lives are essentially a series of negotiations.
In our personal lives, we negotiate with our kids about bedtime or sleepovers. We negotiate with our spouses about dinner options or where to go for the next family vacation.
Our professional lives depend on negotiations too. Or more accurately, our business lives depend on how adept we are at negotiating.
Chris Voss understands this fact better than most. As the FBI’s former lead International Kidnapping Negotiator, Chris spent 24 years outmaneuvering criminal minds in high-stakes hostage negotiations.
Chris now applies his FBI experience to the business world—helping top organizations, executives and academic institutions perfect the art of negotiation. He’s also the author of Never Split the Difference, a book that Forbes describes as an essential read for growth-stage entrepreneurs.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Chris. He shared with me some incredible some great tips from his time with the FBI that will help each of you become better business negotiators.
Know Your Negotiation Style and Become What You’re Not
Most of us have a negotiation style—an approach to negotiating that our personality naturally deviates. Call it the style that you’re born with.
Negotiation styles are typically classified into five groups: competing, accommodating, compromising, collaborating, and avoiding. Each of these styles has their strengths and their limitations. As such, each is suited to perform well in certain negotiation scenarios while weak in others.
Chris says identifying your natural style is a critical first step in becoming a skilled negotiator. By doing so, you’ll learn the types of scenarios where you’re naturally suited to negotiate. And importantly, you’ll learn where you fall short.
Next, learn about the other four styles and their strengths and weaknesses. Learn how and when they can be used to help you close a deal.
Takeaway: Remember, the most skilled negotiators blend in and move between negotiation styles. Practice doing so yourself.
Chris Voss Knows Negotiation is “Letting The Other Side Have Your Way”
Human beings are ego-dominated creatures. And the ego likes to win—a fact that can be very useful in the world of negotiations for a negotiator.
Knowing that the ego likes to come out on top, Chris suggests initiating conversations that coax the other side towards your solution while creating the illusion that it was entirely their idea.
The secret is to make your opponent feel like they’ve won, says Chris. That the solution was theirs. That they’re ultimately the smarter opponent.
Takeaway: Let the other side do the talking as you listen and nudge them along. Let them talk themselves into your solution and congratulate them on the idea when it’s all done.
Being Right Doesn’t Make A Deal
Carrying on with the ego theme, remember that most people respond well to flattery. And conversely to put downs and discouragement.
Pointing out a potential lead’s flaws isn’t going to open any doors, and it certainly isn’t going to close any sales. So, even if your target’s business may have been faltering for years, you’re best to skip the honest chat.
Instead, take an empathetic approach. Make positive comments on where they’ve been making great efforts. And show that you understand the challenges they face.
The empathetic approach will help you gain their ear and eventually their trust.
Takeaway: Avoid harsh criticism. Instead, offer useful feedback that demonstrates you understand your lead’s needs. From there, it’s a natural transition into showing how your offerings fill those needs.
Catch more of Chris’ tips and tricks on the art of negotiation over on the podcast. He shares some incredible stories from his FBI days as well as his thoughts on Donald Trump as a negotiator.