To help clients get the negotiation outcomes they’re aiming for, The Black Swan Group advises using Accusation Audits®, a preemptive technique designed to defuse the negative emotions the other side is likely harboring.
Before sitting down at the table, we teach clients to write down the negatives their counterparts may harbor about themselves, their company, and the circumstances they find themselves in. None of these sentiments need to be true; you just need to think they might be and remember to make it all about them—not you.
In fact, labeling negatives has three times more impact than labeling positives because it defuses them before they would invariably surface.
But when exactly should you use an Accusation Audit? Let’s take a look.
1. At the Beginning of the Conversation
In any difficult conversation, there’s a proverbial elephant in the room. Most of the time, people dance around the elephant because it makes them uncomfortable.
No matter how much you might like to ignore the elephant, it will never go away.
Sprinkle some Accusation Audits (AAs®) into the beginning of your conversation by calling out the negatives you think your counterpart feels. Even if you aren’t sure why the other side might think a certain way, leading with AAs gives them deference. It’s a great negotiator’s technique for putting you in the zone for collaborative problem-solving.
2. When Presenting Bad or Difficult News
As a realtor, I counsel my team to use Accusation Audits when they need to share bad news with their clients.
Many people in sales are trained to aim for “yes” and negotiate past hurdles. If your goal is to close as many real estate transactions as possible, you need to use Tactical Empathy®, which is effective at building strong relationships and achieving forward momentum in deals.
Imagine you receive a home inspection report that shows a few significant areas of concern. You approach the other agent with a list of requests your client wants the seller to handle, but the seller disagrees, and you have to bring the bad news back to your client.
Use an AA to soften the blow: You will probably be disappointed with these responses. It might make you frustrated to find out what the seller doesn’t see as a big issue.
3. Before Making an Ask
Whenever you need to make an ask—no matter how big or small—use an Accusation Audit first.
As leaders, we make asks all the time. Anytime you make an ask of your subordinates, you change their day—even if it’s just asking them to move a desk to the other side of the room.
You might think that I don’t know how much work is on your plate and that I’m obsessing over the most minor details. You might even think I’m just asking you to do something for no reason.
Using an AA before an ask gives deference to the other side, making them more likely to acquiesce without pushback.
Don’t Forget About C.A.V.I.AA.R™!
Effective use of Accusation Audits starts with the C.A.V.I.AA.R™ framework, which tells us to stay curious, remember we’re going to be attacked, vent to clear our minds before sitting down at the table, and identify the negotiator type we’re dealing with before launching into an AA.
Of course, an AA is just one tool in your tool belt that enables you to execute Tactical Empathy™—the secret sauce in every successful negotiation.
To learn about the other tools that can help you win better deals, check out this infographic: The Black Swan Group’s Negotiation 9™.