When we ask our clients about the negotiating challenges, we get an array of answers ranging from - ‘we want to establish a common approach to our negotiations, we want our people to feel more confident and in control of their negotiations, we need to improve our margins, we give too much away’. When we probe for more detail, a common theme is that of their negotiators fearing rejection, when the other party says ‘no’ to their proposal or suggestion, their ‘go to’ position is to either continue their line of unsuccessful persuasion (annoying to the other party) or acceptance of ‘no’, and fast retreat with tail firmly between their legs.
At Scotwork, we encourage our negotiators to look at ‘NO’ as being the start of the negotiation rather than the end. To not fear but embrace it and there are various ways to try to turn a ‘no’ to a ‘maybe’ or better still, a ‘YES’! Let’s consider these options in turn.
- Persuasion – when it works it is an ideal option - low cost - some words, statistics, data sharing perhaps. Problem is when we over-persuade it becomes really annoying to the other party. Scotwork recognised the importance of effective persuasion in negotiations and commissioned research into the use of cognitive biases to make persuasion more effective which we now share with our clients.
- Ask great negotiating questions – ‘what would we have to do to get you to accept the proposal?’, ‘Are there any circumstances under which you could agree to this”,’ What would it take to …’ etc
- Open the door to a possible further small concession ‘Just suppose we were to offer an additional X, then would you be able to agree? Test the water but don’t commit, if they say no, then you withdraw the option of a further concession
Do your children fear the word ‘no’? Mine don’t, never did. We need to find our inner child and learn to not fear rejection or ‘no’.
I had hoped that by the age of 22 my daughter would have backed down a bit when it came to the persuasion game but a Christmas shopping trip in November 2020, before lockdown no 3, proved that this was not the case.
Grandma had given her money to buy some ‘much needed’ sports gear as a Christmas present. We agreed to shop together, I suggested Decathlon, where I go for my sports gear but no, a 4th year skint sports student was setting her sights higher, much higher, so we walked into town and she introduced me to Lululemon. I had heard of the store and the brand and had walked past it many times but never gone inside, I hate shopping at the best of times and the Scottish blood running through my veins warned me off.
The store is full of beautiful young people, beautiful sport clothing, beautiful price tags. Perhaps in a poor attempt to justify the eye watering price tags (£110 for a pair of lycra leggings - really?), your name is chalked on the changing room door and you are personally addressed at every stage of the shopping process. My daughter assured me that the quality was second to none as I rolled my eyes.
2 pairs of lycra leggings later, a lovely gift box with perfumed tissue paper, some sprinkled fake gems and in another posh bag (they asked if we wanted each of these ludicrous packaging extravagances – it was free so I said ‘yes, absolutely, we’ll have all of it, having failed to negotiate any kind of a discount!)
We walked home together, she, smiling and swinging the posh bag by her side said, ‘I can’t wait to get these on and go to the gym tonight’. ‘Excuse me’ I said, ‘What?’ she said. ‘They are a present from grandma, for you to open on 25 December and not a day before’. The persuasion began, ‘I need to wear them, I don’t have any decent ones (blatant lie), I need a boost, please, Grandma doesn’t need to know’. No, no, no, no no! We walked further in silence and she made one last stab ‘how about I wear them, just tonight, just the once then I will wrap them up again, put them in the box, in the bag, under the tree’!
I am proud to say that for once, I put my foot down and refused to cave-in. By the time we got to 25 December she was overjoyed to open the parcel and remember how ‘beautiful’ those lycra leggings were.
Persuasion, applied effectively, is such a great way of resolving conflict when it works but sometimes, the best persuader in the world, will still be faced with a ‘no’ so you must have other options ready in your negotiating armoury.