How To Negotiate Like A Pro

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Alan McCarthy has been an independent sales consultant since 1987. He’s worked in 55 countries, and in 25 of the 50 US states. He is the Director of 5 businesses, one of which is a tattoo studio run by his youngest daughter and her husband.

A true master of conflict resolution and negotiations, Alan has written and published 5 books on just that. His advice will provide you with the effective communication skills to achieve all your goals in your online sales communication strategy.

In my interview with him, we unpack the 4 stages of negotiation, rule no 1 and 3 of negotiations, tone of voice, mirroring, and much more.

Having great conflict resolution skills can play an important role in our daily lives. It’s not just an important skill set to have in, let’s say, a high-pressure hostage situation, but also in day-to-day relations and business negotiations!

We all know how important being authentic is to building trust, yet there are so many more surprising communication factors that influence people. Alan McCarthy, who has worked with hostage negotiators all around the world and is the author of ‘Advanced Negotiation Techniques’, reveals his best tips and tricks on how to develop effective communication skills to become a great negotiator.

5 Tips for negotiation:

  • Planning/Preparation

Hostage negotiators prepare in a team. They’d never go out on their own and just do a Zoom call, so you shouldn’t either. So before you worry about any other sales communication techniques that’ll make you a pro negotiator, get good at planning because preparation is key!

  • Listening

Listen to hear, not to respond. Quite often salespeople try to paint the other party into the corner that they think they want to be in. They’ll listen for the cues that enable them to say what they want to say, this is not a great sales communication strategy. The best flexibility will come about if you’re listening to someone and you hear something you didn’t think you were going to hear, but that you can now use.

There are so many different myths about active listening, but active listening is about sending back the words that you’ve heard from the other party. They may not be the way you use words, but the other party will always remember words that they use that have come from their mouth and brain. If you use those words, they’ll immediately recognize that you’ve been listening to them.

  • Likeability

Make yourself likeable. Not everyone likes everyone else, and quite often you’ll meet someone straight up and you’ll take an immediate dislike to them for some reason. So the first step is to be likeable, and if you can’t be likeable naturally in an authentic way, try not to be disliked!

And once you’re liked, the next step is to be respected. You can be respected without being liked, but people will only listen to you if they like and respect you.

  • Tone

Hostage negotiators are used to handling telephone conversations, so they know it’s all about the tone of your voice and the words that you use. Good negotiators are very specific in the way they use their words.

Unfortunately, most salespeople can often be quite sloppy or a little out of context. You really have to be precise in your language, and you have to be precise in the way that you listen to the other party’s language.

  • Mirroring

You need to mirror the other person by tone and decibel, and perhaps also by the speed of their speech. In any online conversation, you have to be sensitive to the way the other person wants to hear what you’ve got to say, and not just make them listen to what you’ve got to say. 

What about non-verbal cues?
There are a lot of things you can’t do when you’re negotiating over the phone or in an online meeting with the video turned off. One of the downsides is that certain ‘non-verbal cues’ will be limited.

Even over Zoom and Skype, we don’t yet have good enough connections to be able to pick up on micro-expressions. So you want to keep your language straight, be specific in your request, and listen very carefully to what the other person is saying.

The 2 most important rules to remember (from the ten rules of negotiation):

  • Rule No. 1 – Don’t negotiate (unless you need to):

I’ve met tens of thousands of salespeople in my career, and I’ll bet there’s only been four to five that have negotiated on their business card. We’re paid to identify customer’s problems, help them to solve the problems with our solution, and the solution has a price.

  • Rule No. 2 – Never accept the first offer:

If a customer has a $300,000 problem, your task is to find a solution, if we find our solution costs him $50,000, what we’ve actually got is a return on investment formula.

Of course, that customer is not going to break rule number three and accept your best price at $50,000. Your task now is to continue selling the $50,000 solutions that’ll then give him a $250,000 saving action points in the long run, and your task is to sell them on the value proposition.

What do salespeople and professionals need to be aware of?

Drafts/Proposals vs ‘Opening View’
The first thing we’ve got to be aware of is – if you’re going to send someone a proposal, don’t call it a draft or a first proposal. The minute you say, “Here’s my draft proposal for $100, the customer will take ‘draft’ is a signal.

If you were to say, “Here’s my opening view on this”, they’ll say, “Okay, this is his opening view, I want to see a second view.” You’ll say something to the effect of, “Our credit terms are 30 days net,” and not, “Our standard credit terms.” At that point you say, how do you feel about that?

Think vs Feel
Don’t say “What do they think about that?” Say this instead, “How do you feel?” Because if you say what do you think, they’ll say, “Well, I think it’s too expensive, I think you’re not going too far”.

But if you said, “How do you feel about that? They’d probably say, “I feel as though you’re not moving towards us in the right way,” or, “I feel a little uncomfortable about the three-year contract”. This clever little sales communication technique leaves you a lot more to work with.

Ready to negotiate like a pro!
Whether you find yourself in face-to-face or virtual meetings – by simply adhering to these simple and effective communication skills and tricks, you’ll become a great negotiator in no time.

Listen to full interview here.

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