Negotiation: 7 Brilliant Strategies You Didn’t Already Know!


I love negotiation! It’s one of my favourite subjects to discuss in my sessions, because it’s very useful and it involves so many aspects of psychology. Here are seven ‘not so obvious’ tips that I share in my talks and classes.

1. The Headline Smile
This psychological ruse works in all but the most solemn situations. Find a bit of news trivia you find amusing or ironic, and that brings a smile to your face.  As you go into the room, let people see something has brought a smile to your face. When everyone’s sat down, share this ‘funny’ item with the other party and offer your comment or wry observation. Why is this a good idea?

(a) The other party cannot anticipate it. Like a good chess player, you have disrupted whatever their opening gambit was, so you’re in the driving seat.

(b) It’s a way to ‘take the temperature’ of the meeting. You’ll instantly know whether the other party is friendly and accommodating or not. This is good to know.

(c) It means you then get to say, ‘Anyway, let’s get down to business, shall we?’, meaning you are the one taking the initiative. It’s a subtle way to establish high status.

2. Hook Lines
A hook line is an intriguing but incomplete opening statement that needs to be resolved by a follow-up statement:

‘I looked over the brief, and you know something? I was immediately struck by one fascinating detail!’

‘When I reviewed our notes from last time, I suddenly realised what this deal is really all about!’

Hook lines follow a simple pattern: mention that something is important, put some emotive expression into it, but don’t say specifically what it is. The other party has to wait for your explanatory follow up statement, so you’re in control. Many great performers and speakers use hook lines. They create a delicious bit of tension — like waiting for the chord that provides a satisfying coda to a piece of music.

3. The ‘Comfortable’ Formula
This is from a woman who had been very successful selling expensive financial consultancy services. In sales calls, prospects sometimes baulked at the fees she mentioned. Her response was always the same. With a warm smile she said, ‘I quite understand. That’s all right. I wouldn’t want you to pay anything you’re not comfortable with.’

Guess what? A very high percentage of these prospects subsequently came back and signed up!

This is a wonderful formula. It avoids arguments or ‘hard sell’ tactics. Instead, it subtly re-frames the conversation. It says there’s no problem with the service or the fees; the only problem is what the other party chooses to feel comfortable with. Of course, this is always subject to change! It’s perfectly possible to not want a particular deal and then, the next day, to decide you do!

4. Find The PEG
Feelings trump facts. Even when people think they are making ‘rational’ decisions, other factors always come into play, including feelings, personal bias, mood and so on. Yes, make a rational case for the deal you want. However, realise that if the other party sees a Perceived Emotional Gain (PEG) in the deal they’ll probably agree, and if they don’t then they won’t.

It helps to look up ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’. Think about your forthcoming negotiation and ask yourself: how does this deal fulfil the other party’s needs (expressed in Maslow’s terms)? If you come up with a good answer, this will shape your approach to the deal. If you can’t come up with a good answer, re-think the deal!

5. ‘Because’ Prompts
Everyone knows it’s important to be a good listener in any business negotiation. But there’s one part everyone misses out: you should listen with ‘because’ prompts. Don’t say, ‘When would you need this to be delivered?’. Say, ‘Tell me, when would you need this to be delivered? Because I’d like to get a clear picture of your needs’.

Don’t say, ‘Which features are you most interested in?’, say, ‘Can you explain to me which features you’re most interested in, because I want to get a clear idea of what matters to you.’ This frames you as someone who empathises with the other party’s situation. Secondly, it will elicit deeper, more emotional answers (see point 4).

6. Modal Judo
Normally, you want to build as much rapport as you can. But every now and then you are faced with someone using dirty tactics. In this case, you may want to derail the other party’s line of thought, or take away their momentum, forcing them to negotiate fairly. Here’s a good method:

If they are explaining everything in words, gesture to the white board and say, ‘It’s sometimes easier to think in pictures. Could you sketch out how you see this working? It might be easier for everyone.’ Conversely, if they are a visual thinker and doing a ‘chalk and talk’ presentation, say, ‘Sorry, could you just leave the pictures for a moment and explain it in words? It might be easier for everyone.’ (Always pretend your only concern is to make things easier for everyone to understand.)

If they have prepared a ‘high level summary’, ask for plenty of detail. If they’re ready with details, say you think everyone just needs the concise, top-level summary. Forcing a change of mode can seriously dent the other party’s flow. Use this judiciously! Using this tactic on others for an aggressive rather than defensive reason can lower your influence in the end!

7. Remember OKITE
There’s a quote that I’ve seen on ‘inspiration’ websites: ‘It will be all right in the end; if it’s not all right, it’s not the end’.  You can apply this to negotiation. ‘This deal will be OK in the end (OKITE). If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.’ Meetings can go badly for many reasons. Maybe the other party was in a bad mood, or had personal problems. Don’t get discouraged. Let the dust settle and set up a second meeting. Many great deals got off to a bad start.

This also takes pressure off yourself. Never feel that one meeting has to produce the perfect outcome. Not so. If today goes well, great. If not… so what? Set up a second meeting and enjoy the rest of the story. It will be OK in the end! Negotiation is an extremely broad field, and dips into various other topics. One of my favourite topics related to negotiation is the field of persuasion. In fact, I wrote a whole book about persuasion which became a best-seller! Check it out here.

Gilan Gork is the renowned South African mentalist, as featured on dozens of television shows, radio interviews and print media. You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter!

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Known as the 'Master of Influence'​ by his clients, Gilan is a Mentalist, Corporate Speaker, Trainer and Entertainer, Founder of Influence Institute and Author of the best seller, 'Persuasion Games'​. Gilan Gork works with businesses of all sizes either by adding value to their events as an MC or Entertainer, or training them on influence and persuasion to help them achieve their goals faster.