Ep. 81 – Negotiating Like an FBI Agent with Chris and Brandon Voss Part II

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the second half of a two part interview with Chris and Brandon Voss, coauthors of the best selling book on business negotiation, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

Chris Voss used to be an FBI hostage negotiator. When he retired, he applied the negotiation techniques he learned in law enforcement to the business world. Some of the methods Chris and Brandon teach can seem difficult to execute and counterintuitive, but I can personally vouch for their effectiveness in my own business dealings.  

Main Points

(3:00) Chris and Brandon talk about why they prefer not to name price first in negotiations. They also explain why they don’t like extreme anchoring (naming an extreme asking price to begin a negotiation). Brandon says that it’s a problem that so many people come into a negotiation and automatically assume the first price is an extreme anchor. 

(5:35) Chris says that very often when people ask you to give them a price they are not actually interested in buying. He says that researchers have found that at least 20% of the time people ask you for a price they are only looking for a competitive bid, which he equates to lying in business. He says this percentage is an underestimate because people don’t naturally admit to lying, so you have to use strategies to bring out the truth.

(10:40) Brandon gives examples of how to use labeling to get a customer to reveal what they are willing to spend. As explained in part one of the interview, a great strategy to get information is to use labels—verbal observations such as “it seems like,” “it sounds like,” “it looks like,” and “it feels like.” He suggests saying, “It sounds like you haven’t spent that much time thinking about what you would spend on this,” “It sounds like there is a ceiling you don’t want to cross,” or “It sounds like you have a range in mind.”

(13:17) Brandon says it is also good to let a counterpart name price first because it  makes that person feel they are in control. He says that when people feel autonomous and in control of what is happening they are more likely to want to make a deal. 

(15:10) Chris explains the purpose of asking “no” questions. One of the negotiation techniques Chris and Brandon prescribe is getting other people to say “no” in conversations. He says that people are unfortunately conditioned that the word “no” is a word they don’t want hear in negotiations. People associate it with failure. However, he says research has shown that when people say “no” it actually makes them comfortable and safe and prompts them to take action (see video below).

Click here to watch more videos from the interview.

(18:40) Noah asks if Trump is a good negotiator. Chris asks jokingly, “Do you want the Trump people to hate us?” Chris brings up Trump’s dealings with North Korea. He says Trump did a spectacular job opening the negotiation with  North Korea—something unprecedented. However, he says that today nobody seems to know where the negations are at. Chris says that Trump is by nature an “assertive” negotiator, similar he and Brandon. He says that assertive negotiating can yield to some early spectacular successes, but people will not want to deal with you long-term if you can’t change from that mode. He says that every negotiator needs to be assertive, but it cannot be the only component in how you operate.

(21:35) Brandon and Chris discuss their dislike for the concept of “win-win” solutions. Brandon says the term is associated with compromise in which both parties give up things, leading them to feel unsatisfied. In his experience, deals that people call “win-win” often fall apart. Chris says when someone says “win-win” in a negotiation, they are either a cutthroat negotiator or a naive negotiator. He says if someone calls him to propose a “win-win opportunity,” he will hang up. Unfortunately this subject came up at the very end of the interview, and Chris and Brandon said they could easily give an entire lecture about it because of its complexity.

Question: Do you like to haggle when buying a car?

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2 thoughts on “Ep. 81 – Negotiating Like an FBI Agent with Chris and Brandon Voss Part II

  1. r in nyc

    As HARRY THE HAGGLER said in ‘Life of Brian’ (a great movie):
    “Well, we’re– we’re supposed to haggle!”
    What a great scene – YouTube it

    Don’t ask, don’t get.

    Just look at our Great President.
    Read “The Art of The Deal”!!!
    “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.” – PDJT
    People keep saying they don’t understand the President. All they have to do is read his book – He tells everyone who he is.

    I rather have a few extra shekels in my pocket.
    Watch where every penny goes because “soon those pennies will turn into dollars.” – PDJT

    Many years ago when I was young, running the family machine shop as I am today, the salesman at the EASTEC tool show did’nt take me seriously trying to get information and buy a new HMC. Maybe that reinforced my dislike for salesman. The salesman associated with our area finally showed up and told everyone I was legit. Suddenly everyone’s’ tone changed. That one salesman , an older Gentleman – in the true sense of the word – was the only decent salesman I ever knew! but he’s dead now.

    Oh yeah, CARS?
    I’ve made car salesmen cry.
    You know salesman are real low on most peoples lists, mine especially.
    and car salesman are on the bottom of the list when it comes to the subset of salesman.
    I think the purpose of a car salesman is to be abused! 😀
    They are right down there with root canals, rats and roaches. LoL

    Whats the difference between a used car salesman and a software salesmen?
    The used car salesman knows when he’s lying.

    If a deal doesn’t feel right then it pays to be patient, another opportunity will come sooner or later.

    After serious negotiating, I’ve walked out of a dealership for $50.
    They said “you’re not gonna buy a car over $50?”
    I said “you’re not gonna SELL a car over $50!”

    I walked out, went down the road to the another dealership and got my price cut by another $100 for the exact same new car.

    When the first dealer called me the next day, I told him I already had my new car for the price I wanted.
    I could sense a tear rolling down his cheek…

    Stay safe – don’t get the WuFlu!

  2. Noah Graff

    Hi R! Thanks so much for commenting!

    I applaud your tenacity and principles. As you said in part of your insightful comment it can be useful if you treat it as a game.

    Problem with your anecdote for me is that time is so valuable to me that if I don’t feel like I will do that much better somewhere else my time and energy is worth the 50 bucks. Those dealers are shrewd in that they know you have invested a lot of time and energy and time in the haggling process already and just coming to look at the car. They are already at work so it’s less of a big deal to spend the time.

    Maybe that’s why I find a haggle with car dealer more of a pain in the ass than negotiating on a machine.


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