Decode Self Marketing Like a Hostage Negotiator

Guest blog post by Cristin Leimer

On March 28th, I attended a SheSaysBoulder event, Dr. Evil’s Guide to Marketing and Selling with Sonia Simone. In job searching, marketing myself well has become an important task. Simone had several key points to make about selling better and not giving up your values to do it. Her sixth point was of particular interest: “harnessing the terrifying power of numbers – specificity is convincing”.

I immediately thought about a book I read called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. In his book, Chris, a former lead FBI international hostage negotiator, applies his experience from hostage negotiation to business and life. He talks about the power of using specific numbers in negotiation and uses fundraising and salary negotiation examples.

As I am currently job searching, I have tried this tactic when asked what my salary expectations are. It’s interesting to see how differently people respond when I use a rounded number full of zeros versus a number that seems very unique to the situation. People usually say, “Oh, you’ve really thought about that,” or “You really know what you need,” or “It sounds like you’ve done a detailed calculation.” It’s different. It’s attention-calling. When a person uses this tactic, they stand out from the crowd and become more memorable. I want them to remember me. This tactic is only one of many that Chris gleans from his experience.

I also recently used another tactic Chris calls “labeling”. Labeling simply means trying to understand and state the emotions or actions of the other person in the negotiation. Using statements that start with “it sounds like” or “it seems like” allows the other person to correct the assumption if it is untrue but also gives a sense of connection and listening. In fact, purposefully mislabeling can be a powerful tool.

I tried it several weeks ago after being connected through a friend to someone who said they would make introductions for me at a company where he had worked. Weeks went by. I tried emailing to set up time for coffee, a beer, or just a phone call. Nothing was working. Finally, I sent an email with only this line, “It seems like you are unwilling to make the connections we talked about.” I received a response via email that evening. Powerful.

Chris’s company, The Black Swan Group, also writes a blog full of helpful negotiation tactics. I read The #1 Negotiation Strategy for Everyone (Backed by Science) about using an Accusation Audit to increase your negotiation success. Similar to labeling, an accusation audit requires one side to see from the perspective of the other side. And from that perspective, they make a list of all the negative accusations the other side might possibly make or feel about the negotiation. Then, they actually voice that entire list of negative accusations to the other side before ever getting to the good stuff. Chris says, “This is easier and faster than pitching value.” It seems crazy to list the negatives before pitching the positives, but Chris explains how listing the negatives first actually helps diminish them. If the negatives go ignored or unstated, they start to grow.

The human brain does scary things with bottled-up negativity. Once the negatives have been stated and reduced, then the positives, the pitch, will be stronger. When positives are stated, the opposite happens. They become stronger and grow but only after the negatives have been diminished.

I’m very excited to try the Accusation Audit and to learn more negotiation tactics. Whether marketing for myself or my company, negotiation plays a key role. Luckily, Brandon Voss, the Director of Training and Operations for the Black Swan Group, will be speaking in a webinar event, Negotiate like Your Success Depends on It, for Boulder Startup Week on Tuesday morning at Galvanize. Join us to learn how to apply hostage negotiation tactics to your business and your life.

~Written by Cristin Leimer

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