What Role Do Emotions Play In Negotiation?

Sales professionals could take a page from Kenny Rogers's hit, The Gambler. “Know when to hold them and know when to fold them". Hands down, sales professionals cave too quickly when the conversation comes to lowering the price.

It is the buyer’s job to ask this question, this is how they get paid. It is our job to understand the motivation behind it, what is the question behind the question?

Most times, they are open to other options than a lower price but we clam up at the thought of asking, sometimes offering other concessions instead, longer terms, flexible financial options, work around their fiscal year-end.

But how do we get to our desired outcome? Let's start by taking a step back and remember we are dealing with people and their emotions. Emotions play a big role in negotiations. Our job is to identify and influence them to avoid eroding your margin and ultimately get what you want. You can negotiate anything in exchange for something else, but how do we do this?

Preparation in negotiation is key, as Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference says’ The worst negotiation is the one you don’t know you are in”. To prevent conversations from getting heated and losing control, understand the type of negotiator your buyer is, what type of emotions are they displaying? Now, separate the person from the problem.

3 Tips for Negotiation, based on the book, Never Split the Difference

1) Give your audience the illusion they are in control by asking calibrated or open-ended questions. This allows you to nudge your counterpart not push them, openly acknowledge them, without resistance. Ask How or What questions, get them talking more.

Listen, observe emotion, look past their demands and get to the root of their underlying motivations, why do they want this? Why is this important for them? Go beyond the surface.

Examples of calibrated questions:

· What are we trying to accomplish?

· How is that worthwhile?

· How does that affect things?

2) Go for “No”, this may seem counterintuitive to you. But your goal is to allow your counterpart to say “No”. Saying No allows them to protect themselves, feel safe and in control, then consider all possibilities. When we push them into the “yes trap” they feel cornered, they will come out defensive and swinging. ie) Have you given up on this project?

Allowing them to say no immediately creates a more constructive and collaborative negotiation. Learn to see No as something other than rejection, see behind it, No’s become the gateway for Yes.

Possible underlying meanings of No:

· I need more information

· I do not understand

· I am not yet ready to agree

· I want to talk it over with someone else

3) Practice labelling. Labelling allows you to validate your counterpart’s emotion by acknowledging it, giving it a name, disarming them and getting closer to them.

Labels start with It seems like…. It sounds like…. It looks like      

These phrases also allow your counterpart to disagree if you have mislabeled, they are not words that tie you down. After you label, Pause, be quiet and listen, the power of the label is it promotes conversation, inviting your audience to share more, reveal themselves, their thoughts, hopes etc.

In negotiations, emotions can get the better of us as there is a lot at stake most times. Our role is to understand the emotions, read our audience, how does their body language change based on certain questions, situations etc. Lean into your empathy and understand their motivations, why is this important for them, why would they not accept this, there is usually a bigger reason, our job is to understand it. Complete the puzzle and when pieces don’t fit together use our tactical empathy to figure out why.

Next time you or your team are preparing for a negotiation, consider using the 3 tips above and notice the difference. I would encourage you to practice and role play in a safe environment at first, these techniques will not feel natural immediately. You may think your audience will notice, the reality is they will not, they will however start opening up and sharing more information, this is your time to sit back, listen and observe.

Coming Soon:

We are preparing for the fall launch of The K2 Sales Academy, Self-directed online learning for individual sales reps as well as sales leaders and their teams.

Annual subscription to unlimited learning with video modules, assignments and embedded links for coaching calls with your sales manager to reinforce and anchor the learning.

Stay tuned for more details coming soon!



About Karen Kelly

For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.

Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools  that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.

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