Sales Skills

Negotiation with Empathy

Most of us focus on ourselves and why we need to win or make a deal. However, a negotiation is not one-sided. To find creative solutions that benefit both sides, you must collaborate, build trust, and share information.

Start by asking yourself, “What pressure is the other person feeling in this negotiation? What are their worries and concerns?” Gradually get to know them by asking intelligent, open-ended questions. The more information you can gather about the other person, the more amendable they’ll be to working with you to develop a win-win solution that addresses both your needs and objectives.

Next, try to uncover the other party’s pain and struggles. Bring them to their attention and quantify their financial and emotional costs out loud to the prospect, client, or underwriter. Chris Voss, former hostage negotiator for the FBI, and author of Never Split the Difference, suggests putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you notice their feelings, turn them into words and calmly repeat their emotions back to them by saying, “It seems like you think I’m being unfair,” or “It sounds like you really understand this business.”

During the negotiation, it is critical to show empathy through active listening, which forces you to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This approach deepens rather than diminishes relationships. Failing to listen to the other party’s views, wishes, or goals makes them feel that you are simply trying to make a sale or complete a transaction.

Think of yourself as a detective – ask probing questions, then be quiet. Listen. Your prospect or client may start by asking for a lower bid when they really want more value, less risk, and enhanced safety or security. And they will tell you everything you need to know – all you have to do is listen 80% of the time.

Carlo Ferrara with Streetsmart Insurance serves small businesses in New Jersey. He understands the art of active listening: “When confronted with an issue where there are differences, the best thing to do is stop talking. Active listening to the other party and being optimistic are the two best remedies to creating a win-win situation where everyone is happy.”

Rather than caving in or being pressed on price, meet the other party with new, problem-solving ideas and active listening. When you focus on solutions to their worries and concerns, you will almost always come up with collaborative win-win ideas rather than price.

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