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4 Hostage Negotiation Skills to Help You Renegotiate Your Cable Bill

By |October 07, 2014

I received this from Ryan, one of the MBA students in the negotiation course we teach at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (MSB). Ryan is a young “high potential”, like most all of the people who are at MSB in the MBA program. Sharp, hard-working, smart. A young rising star executive.


He applied some of the hostage negotiation skills we teach in the class to a typical life situation, the cable company. Here's the 4 simple rules he used to renegotiate his cable bill:

1. A small amount of market research (emphasis on small)

2. The late night FM DJ voice

3. Several types of empathy (not shorthand and not “one and done”)

4. A focused comparison with an open-ended question

(Everything below in parentheses are my additions.)

“Professor Voss,

I just negotiated with the mother of all dealers- Comcast. I found out that I was overpaying by about $40 and not receiving nearly the same services.

(#1) So, I did a little preparation, checked up to see what their latest deals were, and gave them a call.

(#2 & #3) I led with an overload of “how great their service was”, how “I’ve always received great service whenever I called” etc. Then, I went on to tell them that I recently recommended a friend of mine to Comcast (which is true) because of their great level of service, and I found out that he is receiving more channels and services and is paying $50 less.

(#4) I then dropped a “I understand that you all have to charge a price for your services and that you can charge a premium because it is of such high quality, but how am I supposed to pay that?”.


Radio silence on the other end.

Then I basically told them what I wanted.

End result: I went from paying $149/month for a regular cable box + internet + HBO + Showtime + Starz

to paying $109/month for an upgraded cable box with DVR + internet + HBO + Showtime + Starz + Cinemax.

I used my FM DJ voice (#2) and it just took them off their guard and paralyzed them. It was crazy how well it worked. Thank you for providing the tools, Professor.”

The hostage negotiation skills The Black Swan Group has adapted to personal and professional negotiations are the equivalent of emotional intelligence (EQ) on steroids. More and more literature is being churned out every day that tells us what we’ve really always known, EQ is more important for success than IQ.

The Black Swan Group wants you to be ridiculously successful!

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