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10 Rules You Need to Break Right Now

By |May 16, 2023

1. Ask good questions – False

You need to gather information–yet people hate being interrogated. Questions create friction, diminish rapport, and lengthen the process.

Worse yet, Analysts (1 out of every 3 people you encounter) hate answering any type of question at all. They want at least 36 hours to think through every aspect of an answer before responding, and then sleep on those answers before sharing them. Do you really want to wait 36 hours for an answer to each question you ask?

Labels are the stealth Black Swan skill that simultaneously gathers information and develops rapport. They’ve been described as the skill that “unlocks the floodgates of truth-talk.” Even Analysts respond to them. “It seems like you have a reason for saying that…wanting that…asking that…” are just a few examples of ridiculously effective labels. 

Labels allow you to acquire an unvarnished answer at the moment of the inquiry. Likewise, their appealing, non-interrogative form actually increases rapport in your counterpart.

Nothing affects deal timelines like rapport.  

#1 Truth: Learn to gather information via labels.

2. Listen twice as much as you speak – False

One of the top performers that we coach, Michael, once said, “Gather data with your eyes.” Your counterpart is always revealing more information visually than just what they say and how they say it. Sometimes you can even smell what’s between the lines. 

You have two ears, two eyes, and a nose–that’s five different ways to sense what your counterpart is saying. 

Don’t rely on what they said alone to give you the meaning.

#2 Truth: Listen 5x as much as you speak.  

3. Do Your Homework – False

There are many issues with the phrase “Do your homework.”

Doing extensive research on your counterpart seems like a smart move, but it can be problematic.

First, a lot of information sources, like LinkedIn, tend to act more like dating profiles. There’s a lot of false personas on the internet. Have you ever met up with someone and wondered who the heck was in the picture you saw?

Second, research consumes your time. It would take you anywhere from two weeks to two months to uncover what you could get at the table in 20 minutes. Which is the best use of your time?

This is a world of imperfect information. It’s simply not possible to have a clear understanding of what’s achievable based on “homework.”

Your most valuable data will come while you’re at the table. These are the Black Swans and they will change everything. 

#3 Truth: A great negotiator uses their skills to reveal the surprise information they are certain to find at the table.

4. Know Your Leverage – False

While seeming like a safeguard in negotiations, “leverage” is truly the ability to inflict harm.  

“What happens to them if they don’t make a deal?”  

“What happens to us?” 

Asking these sorts of questions to yourself or your team will put you in the wrong world view. Leverage, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If they don’t care about the consequences of an unmade deal, where does that leave you if you are relying on those consequences?

#4 Truth: Think in terms of influence and not leverage.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Download our infographic to learn the nine crucial negotiation  skills that will give you the edge over your counterpart »

5. Be willing to compromise – False

Compromise is a lose/lose situation, always. It’s an effective recipe for resentment. 

There was a great newspaper cartoon strip from the 1970s by Bill Hoest about a married couple called “The Lockhorns.” There’s one in which the husband says, “Let’s compromise…That way we’ll both be angry.”

#5 Truth: Never compromise. It sabotages you for the long-term.

6. Anchor high – False

Extreme anchoring drives the deals you should have made from the table.  

The academic studies that say high-anchoring works are based on student-simulated (role-play) negotiations. These don’t reflect real-world dynamics. 

In actual practice, the people who do live by this strategy find the deals they make happen fewer and fewer. People grow tired of this tactic over the long term and soon will stop dealing with those who implement it.

The extreme counter-offer to move the ZOPA (zone of possible agreement) in your favor doesn’t account for the deals you’ve driven away.

Price is only one term. Price doesn’t make deals, it breaks deals. 

#6 Truth: Discover the terms that could make nearly any price a great deal. There is something more valuable than price.

7. Know your BATNA – False

BATNA = Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. The theory here is that if you have a safety net you will be more relaxed in the negotiation and perform better. Essentially, you won’t be taken hostage.

While this is academically sound, humans aren’t academically sound. Humans are driven by desire and emotion. You are a human. Your emotion drives vision, which drives decision.

The reality? If you need a BATNA and you don’t have one you like, you’ve already taken yourself hostage. Does a safety net actually change tightrope walkers’ physical ability? Likewise, you cut yourself short when you need a BATNA. 

#7 Truth: Don’t take yourself hostage by needing a BATNA.

8. Agree on criteria – False

Outside criteria will either block you from making a better deal, or take you hostage. People get trapped into the desire for “fairness” which, like beauty and leverage, is in the eye of the beholder. 

Do outside criteria change your ability to deliver? Or theirs?

#8 Truth: The best deal possible is not governed by outside criteria.

9. Negotiate “Win/Win” Deals and meet people half-way – False 

The “win/win” mindset will get you killed. It’s one of the great sucker phrases (the other most popular being “I just want what’s fair”) that the sharks use to cut your throat. 

I’ve had no shortage of instances where the Black Swan Group has been training at a corporation, and one of their people (who is not participating in the training) will come up to me at lunch and say, “I use win-win all the time to negotiate great deals, I hear you don’t like it.”

I’ll reply, “Yeah, I’m sure you do…The problem is a lot of cutthroat negotiators use that tactic to take people to the cleaners.”  

They will hesitate, get a sheepish grin and say, “Yeah, I generally use that to get what I wanted all along. I’ll say I want a win/win deal and high anchor. Then I ask them to meet me in the middle, which is where I always wanted to be.”

#9 Truth: People who want to meet you half-way are often a poor judge of distance.

10. Identify Common Ground – False 

Will someone give you a better deal because they grew up in a place similar to yours? Or because you kids also play Little League?

My belief is that the idea of common ground was invented in the hope that each person would understand where the other is coming from, and, as a result of that understanding, create a better deal. 

The problem is in application this has a very poor success rate. Hope is not a strategy.

Tactical empathy is about articulating your understanding of their perspective so the other side feels heard. This unlocks deals better than anything else. Does it work all the time? Well, we live in a “Las Vegas” world. Nothing works all the time. It just works better than anything else.

Get off of the 10% win table and get on the 75% win table.

#10 Truth: Use The Black Swan Method to regularly create deals better than you ever thought possible. And then do it again and again.

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The Black Swan Group Negotiation 9