Tune in to for expert tips on managing the sales negotiation process with Chris Voss, renowned author, and negotiation expert.
Check out our previous episode here: PODCAST 19: How to Become a Best-in-Class VP of Sales by 25
What You’ll Learn
- What the definition of a successful negotiation is
- How to steer into objections to uncover real potential
- Understanding the value of “No” in a negotiation
- Using different types of statements and questions to uncover hidden truths in an negotiation
- Creating great outcomes for both parties in a negotiation
- How to understand when to lose a deal and when to walk away
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
- Show Introduction [0:09]
- About Chris Voss: Baseball Card Stats [1:56]
- Business Negotiation Versus Hostage Negotiation [10:23]
- The Power of “No” [16:02]
- Managing the Sales Negotiation Process [20:31]
- Nobody Wants Your Long Emails [32:54]
- Unraveling “Never Split the Difference” [36:52]
- Sam’s Corner [40:45]
Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Aircall and Outreach
Sam Jacobs: Welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast, folks.
This week on the Sales Hacker Podcast, we’re excited that we’ve got, not one but two amazing sponsors.
The first is Aircall. They’re a phone system designed for the modern sales team. They seamlessly integrate into your CRM, eliminating data entry for your reps and providing you with greater visibility into your team’s performance through advanced reporting.
Our second sponsor is a company you guys probably know, Outreach. Outreach.io is the leading sales engagement platform. They make customer-facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives results.
Without further ado, thanks for bearing with us. Let’s listen to episode 20 with Chris Voss.
About Chris Voss: Baseball Card Stats
Sam Jacobs: Today we’ve got somebody that I’m incredibly excited about. We’ve got Chris Voss. Chris is the author of Never Split the Difference, which has been one of the standard reading texts for negotiation in the sales community.
Formerly an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris is also the founder and principal of The Black Swan Group, which is the consulting and professional services organization.
He started this to deploy some of the strategies and tactics that he articulates in Never Split the Difference out to the rest of the global community. Chris, welcome, and thanks so much for your time.
Chris Voss: My pleasure, Sam, thanks for having me on!
Sam Jacobs: Absolutely. What was the experience that got you into the FBI originally? And when was that happening?
Chris Voss: Well, I was a police officer in Kansas City, Missouri. The thought of people paying me to go all over the world sounded pretty cool, and I didn’t know one federal law enforcement agency from the other. I saw an article in the paper that the FBI was hiring, I went down, and they had a big hiring push, and 10 months later I was in.
Business Negotiation Versus Hostage Negotiation
Chris Voss: Some people say, “What’s the difference between business negotiation and hostage negotiation?”
One of my answers is, in business negotiations, people get a lot more upset than they ever do in hostage negotiations. Our strategy from the very beginning is we know with our tone of voice we can take charge without the other side knowing it.
Sam Jacobs: So job one when you show up on the scene is to slow everything down. Is that accurate?
Chris Voss: Yes, you slow it down, and the other side doesn’t know you’re doing it, that’s the key to it.
You want the other side to feel like they’re in control, you don’t want them to know you’re in control. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control.
We want to establish the upper hand while the other side feels like they’re in control. Which is the essence of every great hostage negotiation, and every great business negotiation.
Sam Jacobs: Beyond just tone of voice, what are the other strategies that you employ?
Chris Voss: There’s always a better deal. My overriding goal is to uncover the best possible deal and then decide if I want to make it. That’s what I’m really trying to do.
The Power of “No”: Asking Questions and Labeling
Sam Jacobs: What are the tactics you use to figure out what people are hiding?
Chris Voss: The problem is that we think information-gathering happens on by asking questions. But the truth is that that only makes a third of the process.
“Yes” is the most useless answer that anybody could ever give you. Because there are three kinds of yeses:
Jim Camp, who wrote Start With No used to call it “spilling the beans.”
Even if you’re giving me a legitimate “yes” by itself, it doesn’t mean a thing unless I get “how.” Why do I even bother with the “yes” when I need “how?”
What happens when someone doesn’t like questions? That’s when you use labels. The trick is to make an observation — say, “Looks like A and B are the obstructions”. By saying this, you’ll get an honest, unguarded answer correcting you.
Sam Jacobs: How and what — these are calibrated questions. They’re about one-third of the information-gathering process. Would labeling be the balance of the two-thirds?
Chris Voss: Yeah. If we’re really in information-gathering, I’m going to probably switch over and use a lot more labels to trigger your answers. I’ll use an occasional question.
If you have a goal, and I have a goal, I’ll say, “You want X and I want Y.” And I’m going to say, “Well, how am I supposed to give you Y if I don’t get X?”
Managing the Sales Negotiation Process
Sam Jacobs: How do you manage the emotional temperature in the room as you’re in the information gathering process?
Chris Voss: That’s a great question. One of the things about labels is that if a label gives you the option to respond, you don’t feel backed into a corner.
As soon as you give people the right to say no, they are more likely to say yes. As soon as you give them options, their autonomy is preserved, they’re more likely to cooperate.
Sam Jacobs: Would you say that stage one essentially is an information-gathering?
Chris Voss: We do a lot of work in real estate, advising people in real estate. What happens when people are looking at houses? The first time they go out and they see a house, they’re kind of blown away.
A real estate agent that expects an offer on a first view of a house is wrong. Every real estate agent knows the second time they take the buyer out to see the house, she’s is going to start to see all the flaws.
They got to go out and they got to see it a third time. That’s when they expect to have an offer to be made. This is an interesting dynamic.
Nobody Wants Your Long Emails
Sam Jacobs: Hostage negotiation and a lot of your negotiation is face-to-face. The audience out there that’s listening to this, they do a lot of work over email. How do you have to modify the strategy, if it all, when you’re using written communication which is asynchronous?
Chris Voss: Nearly everybody who hates getting long emails sends them. The analogy that we like to use is if you were playing chess via email, would you put your next seven moves in one email?
No, because the player on the other side is going to look at all those moves, decide which ones they don’t like. Then, they’ll go off on a tangent on whichever one of those moves they don’t like. Break your emails down. Make actual progress.
Unraveling “Never Split the Difference”
Sam Jacobs: It’s been awesome talking to you, Chris. The book is called Never Split the Difference. Chris Voss is the author. If we were to summarize the overall strategies, would we say never split the difference? Tell us in your words what that means.
Chris Voss: Never split the difference. The counter-intuitive part of that too is the other side might have a better idea than you do, so be willing to completely hear the other side out.
Don’t let your ego get so attached to what you want that it causes you to fail.
The other side might be right. Be willing to hear the other side out. If you project that you’re open to their ideas, you’re going to be stunned at how much more open to your ideas they will be.
This is Sam’s corner. It was pretty awesome to be able to talk to Chris Voss, the author of Never Split the Difference, and the founder of The Black Swan Group.
Listen to Chris, and sign up for his newsletter. You can text FBIempathy to 22828 for a response.
Here’s the thing, there are a number of great things that Chris articulated in this podcast, and I would definitely encourage everybody to go read the book. One of the things that I really liked about what he said is just the concept of “Yes.”
The word “yes” as a response to a question that you’re asking being a negative thing not a positive thing. That’s because you’re going to get counterfeit “Yeses.” You’re going to get people saying yes when they don’t really mean it.
If you’re a new salesperson, then you’ll assume that everything’s moving according to your plan. But you’re just getting a response people are conditioned to provide to help move along in the conversation.
This has been Sam’s Corner. Thanks so much for listening.
Don’t Miss Episode 21
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Also published on Medium.