Negotiation Tactics. The truth behind “getting to yes”

Negotiation Tactics. The truth behind “getting to yes”

My friends know me as a motorcycle enthusiast. Last summer I went to a dealer to check the latest arrivals and saw a very attractive one shouting “buy me”. As soon as the salesman recognized the passion in my eyes, he asked the opening question; “Nice isn’t it?” The answer was a big “yes” with a huge smile. Then came the second question; ”Would you like to sit on it?”. Though not met with the same enthusiasm despite having one at home already. The nice sales guy continued his pre-taught, and well-learned “yes” questions; “wouldn’t it be nice to be on this one this summer?”, “can you imagine yourself among 50 other bikes roaring down the forest along the lakes?”, “would you like to own it?”, etc. etc.

I’m sure the guy was very well taught and experienced in similar sales negotiations. However, with each question, instead of buying the bike, I was feeling pushed away. I had a dozen unanswered questions challenging me in my mind. I can tell you many similar stories of my own or from others around me. So why is this happening and this type of very logical “yes” process pushing us away?

As you are well aware, our brain has two parts, left and right. The delicate surgeries to separate left and right brain hemispheres in some epilepsy patients to decrease the effects of the seizures exposed some strange effects. The responses of the patients to questions about some experiential exercises were different in writing and in verbal answers. The left side of their brains controlling the experimental, creative side of them as well as their verbal communication expressed great interest in these scenarios even though the outcomes were painful.  However, the right side of their brains controlling the logical, systematic and mathematical side as well as their written communication, opposed the idea of doing them as they were painful, risky and harmful. I’m sure you will recall many cases in which one part of you desperately wants it, while the other is shouting within yourself not to do it as there is no logic; i.e. you have a similar one at home, or you may have to accept some consequences, but regret your “yes” decision as soon as you get home.

The bike scenario is the same. In a scenario where your left and right brain are not contradicting each other, then these questions end with a big yes followed by an action. In their best-selling book “getting to yes” William Ury and Roger Fisher explain how to get others to yes with a very logical process.

However, in many other cases, these questions drive you to a doubtful and unwilling “yes” resulting in a regretful action, or a purchase, or a dissatisfied customer if you are the seller. As in my experience with the bike retailer, I had doubts not only from the financing aspect but also my limited time on the bike due to our new settlement plan. In similar situations, even though you feel unpressured, I strongly advise you to take a break. Even phone frauds convince highly educated and sophisticated people to give away their money. Sales camps for time-sharing vacation houses, or your best friend talking you into doing something unwillingly work in similar ways. After listening to the other person without making any commitments, just say “I need a break”, “I’m hungry”, “I have to use the bathroom”. You have to break the trap your mind gets into. 

Instead of trying to force the other person or team in a negotiation, a better way to persuade them is by asking questions to really understand their worries and addressing them, preferably in a way that solves those apprehensions. Asking “no” questions to let the other part express his/her concerns is sometimes a better option, as saying “no” relieves you. For example, if you ask “can I ask you a question”, the other part will most probably say “yes” as a polite gesture while continuing his/her work and listening over his/her shoulder. However, if you ask, “Is this a bad time to talk”, the other party can easily say yes without being impolite and you can continue, ”I need your full attention, is 11 AM ok for you”

As an example the negotiation process can be as follows; 

1.    Ask “how” and “what” questions to relieve the other party of the burden of trying to express himself/herself properly. Do not push into yes questions. 

2.    Do your best to understand the other party, to establish an empathic conversation.

3.    Label the other person’s concerns with “It seems like….” sentences, as “I” sentences create opposition. Let the fears and concerns surface.

4.    Ask more “how” and “what” questions to create a solution together.

5.    Ask a “yes” question to close and seal the deal.

In his bestseller “Never Split the Difference”, Chris Voss is explaining the process of such difficult negotiations, where the other party is unwilling to negotiate or have serious concerns. He is giving us very valuable insights about the “trust bomb” or magical answers like “how can I do this?”.

What happened to my bike purchase? Fortunately, I was able to ask for a break to have lunch and decided on a “no”, contrary to the seller’s expectations. No regrets. 

Have fun, stay healthy and happy.