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The Yes’s and No’s of Negotiation

Category: Business English Skills | 2017-07-02

You may think that as a negotiator, you are winning if you get a “yes” from across the table. This may not be the case. In fact, a “No” might actually be what you need to start out your negotiation.

Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It”, says that “No” is one of the most powerful answers you can get your negotiation partner to say.

Today, we are going to look at why “Yes” can be dangerous and how to make the most out of a “No”. So, if you are ready, let’s get started!

The Yes’s and No’s of Negotiation

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The Dangers of a “Yes”

The word “Yes” is a multi-edged sword disguised as an olive branch. When your negotiation partner gives you a “Yes”, be aware that this is one of three things. A “Yes” can be a confirmation, a counterfeit or a commitment says Voss.

As a confirmation, your partner will use it as an automatic response to a yes or no question. They do this to further the conversation without any intent to act.

A counterfeit “Yes” is an escape route, or way to continue the conversation to their benefit. This often occurs with questions of a sensitive nature, for example discussing the price at an early stage. Your counter part may say they are interested at the given price, despite finding it too high. Later, their unwillingness to pay that price may be an insurmountable hurdle.

The third “Yes”, however, is no danger. It is the commitment “Yes”, meaning they are sincere in their answer and ready to move on to the final stages of the deal.

Be very careful with your questions in the early stages of a negotiation. Trying to get positive responses may actually reinforce your counterpart’s hesitation and lead to a failed sale.

On the other hand, leading with questions designed to elicit a “No” results in more success in the long run. Let’s take a look at how to make that work for you!


The Beauty of a “No”

Saying “No” will give your counterpart the sense that they are in control of the negotiation. And when you hear one, it means your partner is engaged in the discussion and thinking about the process.

There are a few ways that “No” may manifest itself in a negotiation. It may come in the form of uncertainty:

  • “I don’t feel I have enough information to move forward.”
  • “I don’t think I am ready at this point”

It may come by way of stalling tactics:

  • “I’m not sure I can afford it yet.”
  • “I will have to discuss this with my supervisor.”

You may even hear it as a flat-out refusal:

  • “I don’t think this is for me.”
  • “I was looking for something different.”

Remember, a “No” is not permanent and is likely to help your counterpart feel stronger in the negotiation. This false sense of security will help them to open up and take on a more active role in finding a solution. Use this to your advantage by getting them to offer a “No” to some harmless questions. Then, they will be more comfortable with giving you a “Yes” when it counts.


Searching For a “No”

So, how do you get your counterpart to say “No”? There are several tools in your language workbox that will do the trick nicely. Let’s have a look at a few of them now.

One method you can use is to ask negative questions. So, rather than asking, “Would you like to have a look at one of our brochures?” Try this instead. “Would you mind if I sent you one of our brochures?”

Another way to elicit a “No” from your negotiation partner is to say something you know is untrue. For example, you could lead them with a statement like this. “I get the feeling you aren’t looking for the best software on the market.” Which, of course, will have them answering with a quick, “No, that is exactly what I want.” Now, they have corrected you once and will feel more confident in the future. That will help them guide you to a successful solution and take some of the guess work out of it.


Finally, there is the way I prefer to get my counterpart to say “No”. The trick is to get them to tell me what they don’t want. Then I reinforce the idea with a summary. It goes something like this:

Me: Tell me what concerns you have with starting an English course.
Client: I’m concerned about how long it will take to reach my goal and what that will cost in the long run.
Me: So, you don’t want to be paying for English lessons for the next ten years!
Client: Absolutely not!

This has the added benefit of finding out what hurdles are in the way of a sale. Now, you know what areas you need to work on and you have made them feel more at ease.

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Putting It All Together

You now know how to elicit and make the most out of a “No”. So, in your next negotiation, don’t be afraid of the negative answers. Your counterpart is engaged and helping you find the right solution for them. Work the “No” and assess the “Yes” and build great rapport with your clients by gaining their trust. When they feel that they can correct you, both of you will enjoy a more successful negotiation.

What are your go-to negotiation tactics? Do you try to elicit a “No” in your negotiations? Tell me in the comment section below. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter for more tips, articles and exclusive deals. Thanks for reading!



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