Any time you are about to sit down at the table when the stakes are highest, you’re under a lot of pressure. To get the outcomes you’re aiming for, you need to get in the right mindset and defuse that stress to ensure you can think and listen at the highest level, particularly as the conversation becomes difficult.
To do that, you need to get rid of everything you’re dealing with beforehand. If you sit down at the table and wonder how you will make your mortgage payment and the last thing your boss said that bothered you, half of your brain is offline, making it impossible for you to extract the information you need from the other side.
To help clients prepare for high-stakes negotiations, The Black Swan Group has developed a technique called C.A.V.I.AA.R.™. Use it to increase the chances you get the data and information needed to achieve your desired outcome the next time you sit down at the table.
Winning negotiations start with staying curious. Never enter a conversation with a judgemental frame of mind. Instead, go into a negotiation knowing there’s something you will learn during the conversation. By staying curious and trying to figure out what made your counterpart say what they did, it’s impossible to be angry, making you easier to talk to.
Before you enter a negotiation, you need to accept that you will be attacked. Maybe the other side is under pressure to get the deal done, so they have little to no patience. Maybe the other side thinks you’re not listening because you won’t agree with their proposal. Or maybe your counterpart is simply trying to manipulate you because it’s worked in the past.
In any case, it’s only a matter of time before your counterpart will get upset with you. But the good news is that all you need to do is sit back and let the attack happen. It’ll stop in a minute or less.
To negotiate successfully, you’ve got to have an empty head and clear out your mind. The easiest way to do that is by finding someone you trust—a friend or a colleague—and getting the ugly off your chest with them before going face-to-face with your counterpart. When your mind is clear, it’s easier to get your counterpart to clear their mind, bringing you both that much closer to a deal. After all, two people who aren’t thinking clearly aren’t likely to make anything resembling a good deal.
Don’t have anyone to vent to? Not a problem. Write it all down on a piece of paper and throw it away once you’re done.
At this point, it’s time to begin engaging your counterpart. Once you get the conversation going, you need to identify the negotiator type you’re up against. Are they there to fight? Do they seem to be getting ready for flight? Or are they trying to make friends? The answer to those questions will let you know whether your counterpart is an Assertive, an Analyst, or an Accommodator, which will help inform your strategy.
5. Accusation Audit®
The Accusation Audit® (AA) is one of the most difficult skills for our clients to master. In many ways, it sounds like you’re badmouthing yourself. But whenever you approach the table, your counterpart will harbor negative sentiments. By addressing those negative sentiments proactively, you defuse them in your counterpart’s mind.
For example, if you’re trying to get your counterpart to agree to pay 20 percent more, you might say something like this: You probably think I’m the most obnoxious person in the world. You probably don’t think that I care about your budget or that I don’t understand how hard it is in today’s economic climate. You might even think I’m incredibly greedy. After getting the AA out of the way, it’s time to make your ask.
Ultimately, remember that the other side is not your adversary. Even in high-stakes hostage negotiations, negotiators work with hostage-takers. The same concept holds true in business. You need to bring your counterpart into the fold and figure out how to work together and collaborate on a solution where both sides prosper.
Now that you have a better idea about what C.A.V.I.AA.R. is and how it can help you win more business, it’s time to continue your learning. Read up on the Black Swan Group’s Negotiation 9®—our core skills for executing Tactical Empathy®.