Transcript of How to Negotiate As If Your Life Depended On It

Transcript of How to Negotiate As If Your Life Depended On It

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John: A lot of business is about negotiation, heck, life is about negotiation. We’re going to talk with Christopher Voss, former FBI negotiator and you’re going to learn some incredible negotiation skills.

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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Ducttape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Christopher Voss. He is a founder and principle of Black Swan Group, a former FBI top hostage negotiator and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Never Split the Different; negotiating as if your life depended on it. So thanks for joining me.

Chris: John it’s my pleasure, thanks for having me in and just a little small correction if I may. It’s the Black Swan Group as opposed to black swan. Black swan almost sounds like we’re black water or something like that, we’re The Black Swan Group.

John: It’s on my piece of paper here but I didn’t get it out then. While we’re on it —

Chris: That’s alright.

John: While we’re correcting this is it Voss or Voss?

Chris: Voss. It’s Voss. Like the water.

John: Great so let’s talk about negotiating. Obviously, the book is filled with stories from your FBI past and I think a big thing you do in the book is to apply those to everyday skills. So really is anyone in business ever taught how to negotiate.

Chris: You know I think there’s this thing that everyone expects people to be great negotiators and I don’t know if people are afraid to get better or whether it’s low on their priority list or what it is, but I mean there’s just such minor tweaks people could make to take such huge leaps forward.

John: Well in your view is it something that — I mean you’re suggesting of course it can be learned. But is there also — do some people just have it as a street skill?

Chris: Umm no, I think some people might pick it up faster than others. But it’s a little like emotional intelligence which is E.Q vs. I.Q. Like your IQ is fixed you know you got a fixed IQ, it’s like your height. You’re only going to get so tall. I drank as much milk as I possibly could my whole life growing up and I’m just barely taller than my dad. I ended up six inches shorter than where I hoped to be, I wanted to be 6,7. So there’s nothing you can do about that, but your E.Q, as soon as you start making an effort to build it, that’s almost limitless. And the data shows us we can continue to build our emotional intelligent, which is what great negotiation is, applied emotional intelligent through our mid-80’s.

John: So obviously this book uses some very dramatic situations. I mean I don’t know that many of us find ourselves in truly life or death situations in business, I mean it may feel like that at times, but you know is negotiation really just human negotiation? Does it really matter where you’re doing it?

Chris: Great question. How could this possibly — how can high stakes, life and death negotiations, how could it possibly apply to what we do everyday. And the short answer is yeah it applies because it is human negotiations, it’s human interactions. And just because we’re upset doesn’t mean the other side is. Or maybe the other side are upset and we’re not. So the level of intensity varies wildly and certainly, some people treat some negotiations as if it’s a life and death deal.

John: One of the most interesting elements for me at least in the book is you like to think, I think a lot of people do think that negotiation is sort of rational, if I let them know what the facts are and I let them know why this is good for them they’ll take it, they’ll understand. And what you talk about is it’s not rational but extremely predictable.

Chris: Yeah and that’s a great distinction I’m really impressed that you picked that up because if negotiation was rational then we’d always make the deal, right? If it was simply rational there would never be anything to disagree about because we’d all be reasoned. But yeah, people are predictable, people repeat their behavior and make the decisions in patterned ways. So the other side may seem completely irrational but you know they’re going to have the tendency to do things to same, they’re going to be driving by what they care about and that’s going to affect what kind of deals they make. Or they’ll get mad at you and tank a deal that they should have taken because they were mad at you. I mean the F bomb in a negotiation and if you’ve read the book you’ll know what the F bomb is right?

John: Yep.

Chris: And “fair” comes up in every negotiation and boy that is a highly charged emotional word, if I say to you, look man, I just want what’s fair, which is really common.

John: Yeah.

Chris: I just levelled a huge accusation against you and the negotiation is going to knock you off balance.

John: Because you’re essentially saying you’re not being fair.

Chris: Exactly. Right I’m implying it, it’s what the NFL owners did to the NFL players in the last lockout. And clearly they came out on top.

John: So in some ways that predictability I mean especially if we’re thinking — and again you may differ on this but you know, if sometimes negotiation is looked at as I win what I want and maybe that means you lose I don’t know. But if people are predictable, and especially if we can learn what their predictable behavior is, doesn’t that become their weakness?

Chris: Certainly it’s a weakness you can exploit if you’re about that. That’s a really great point, Adam Grant, who’s a brilliant guy, I read his stuff, he wrote a book called Originals, he also wrote a piece not that long ago, it was the dark side of emotional intelligent. Because these are powers for good and not evil. The really bad guys, the sociopaths are using this stuff because it works, it’s tremendously powerful stuff once you start to wrap your mind around this and get your ego out of the way. It’s amazing the amount of influence you can have on somebody because yeah, you get to understand what drives them and helps you understand their weaknesses, you make deals, it’s enormously powerful stuff.

John: And it’s really not that — I mean that’s what’s so funny about this. When I read some of the techniques you know, we’re calling it negotiation but a lot of people have realised hey I can sell more if I appeal to people’s egos, things that come out as techniques they’re kind of really how people influence people all the time, or they’ve learned how to.

Chris: Yeah, exactly right. It has a very broad application. It’s not just negotiation. It’s for better interpersonal relationships, it’s for leaders, it’s across the board yeah.

John: And I think a lot of people now — I actually had this as a question, what is negotiation? Because I do think that a negotiate might be talking your wife into having something different for dinner then maybe what she wanted to plan. I mean we probably underestimate how often we’re negotiating.

Chris: Yeah I agree 1000%. The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in. And anytime somebody’s trying to get somebody to say yes you’re in a negotiate. And the vast majority of them don’t involve money just exactly like the one you pointed out. They want something different for dinner, that’s a negotiation.

John: So in business, there seems to be quite often the negotiate is over price and there are people that seem wired to “I don’t care if that’s the best deal in the world, I don’t care if that’s good for me, I don’t care anything, I want a deal.” Is there a way to negotiate so to speak with that person so you get to a mutual benefit.

Chris: Yeah that’s the easiest guy in the world. Somebody who’s just complete focused on one term and typically it’s the price term. I can make any deal, either a great deal or a lousy deal based on the other terms you know and the really cut-throat negotiators on the planet, Carl Icahn is a famous guy for doing this. He’d be happy to give you his price because he’s going to kill you with the terms and he knows it’s your price focus that you’re really vulnerable, you think you got a deal from Carl Icahn and then you wonder what happened afterwards because he’s just destroyed you. So yeah I mean people think I’ve got to have a deal, that guy’s vulnerable to me. I’ll give you your money and you’re not going to pay any attention to the stuff I’ve put in there that I’m going to walk away with truckloads of value on that I’ll then monetize some other way.

John: Do you find or is your experience…

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