April 26

Episode 25 – Negotiation Techniques: Storytelling & Acting


In this part of the ultimate list of negotiation techniques,we go over one of my most liked negotiation techniques “storytelling and acting”. We cover twelve powerful techniques that involve telling stories and acting to get the most out of your negotiation. Each technique is explained in depth with scenario examples.

Some of these techniques can be combined with each other or with techniques we covered in the previous episode to construct a stronger impact.

Hello my dear negotiators, and here it is, the last episode in the ultimate list of negotiation techniques. The final category we're going to cover is also one I really do like a lot, storytelling and acting. Have you already sent me your question? As mentioned before, I want to hear your questions to give you free advice. Asking me directly is easy as pie. Go to procurementzen.com/ask and record a question. Want to know how to uncover a bluff? Go to procurementzen.com/ask. Need last minute tips on negotiation preparation? Go to procurement zen.com/ask. Or, do you want to educate yourself and want to know what the best negotiation book is? It's easy as pie, you guessed it. Go to procurementzen.com/ask and click Start recording. While I'm collecting the questions, in one of the next episodes I will answer them. As always, you will find the show notes for this episode over at procurementzen.com/025. That's zero 25 for episode 25. And now, let's dive deep into today's episode about storytelling and acting. Let's go.

Are you looking to up your negotiation and procurement skills? You're in the right place. Welcome to ProcurementZen with your host, Phil Kowalski.

Last and final category of our ultimate list of negotiation techniques covers storytelling and acting negotiation techniques. The first item that we cover here is subtle slides. This is another negotiation technique to grab and keep the other side's attention. Let's imagine you want to improve your payment terms in a contract negotiation. Payment terms are a cash flow topic. Create a little slideshow or a one page slide that runs in the background as some kind of screensaver in the beginning of the negotiation. Something that could say, for example, "Cash is our main focus for the coming fiscal year."

It should show how important cash flow is to you. As I said, for example, your CFO saying that it's this year focus. Head over to procurementzen.com/025, that's zero 25 for episode 25, to see an image as an example of this approach. Paint a little one-page slide that could look like the example on the website, or a press article that indicates that your cash flow position currently is very good, e.g. from an analyst call. You do not refer to that slide again. All you do is you subtly prime them for the upcoming topic and how important it is to you and your company.

ProcurementZen with your host, Phil Kowalski, will be right back.

Did you know that you can get a free guide on how to get your message across to your counterparts? It's all about improving your presentations by using visuals. Go to sellmoreideas.com to download for free. So why is that important? Because getting heard will help you in your career. I have received more invitations to management meetings than ever before after I have applied this easy-to-learn skill. I also improved negotiation results up to a level that vendors nearly asked me, "Where do I have to sign?" You can get it at sellmoreideas.com, and in the guide I show you the refined essence of my years of learning. Believe me when I say, everyone can improve their slide decks with visuals. And no, you don't have to be a designer or an artist, and no, it doesn't have to take long. Head over to sellmoreideas.com and make sure others get what you have to say.

Back to the show ProcurementZen with your host, Phil Kowalski.

Next is playing dumb and dumber. Have you seen the movie with Jim Carrey? You wouldn't believe it, but it gave me some inspiration for this negotiation technique. You ask stupid questions or ask a little dumb. Then you say that the monthly cost for your software service offering is less than a daily meal, so we adjusted the pricing. Imagine Dan looking at our changes to discover it's $30 per month instead of the expected $300 per month. Dan says, "Wait, this says $30. That's way too cheap." "But, Dan, I bring my own food and never pay more than a dollar per meal." Side note, you have to be a real good actor this way. From a psychological perspective, you're setting your anchor.

Next is there is no way back. The famous point of no return. This negotiation technique values the effort that already went into making a deal. "Bill, we invested so much time into these discussions. Do you think that delivery time should be a deal-breaker here? We don't want to throw it all away." Emphasize how much effort everyone puts into this thing, that it's not worth throwing it all in the garbage can for that one small request you have left open. Use this negotiation tactic late in the process and only for major issues that are still open.

Next is insulting. "Dan, a professional key account manager could do much better than this." Or, "Donna, how long do you own this customer account? A good sales rep should know us better." This aggressive negotiation approach is a personal attack on the other side. This works wonders on weak counterparts though. Usually they know that they are weak and you show that you know it too. Use it only in conjunction with other strong aggressive negotiation techniques.

Next is fuming. Imagine this. Someone in your team saying, "Bob, I have enough. This annoys me and it's time for you to leave." Then that person storms out of the room. These days we're told that emotions should stay out of business, but I would recommend the opposite. Use them, and use them in an inappropriate way. When fuming and shouting, gesticulating, leaving the room in anger, you take over the lead. This can be in combination with the good cop, bad cop approach, or used as a single tactic. As we are so trained on being unemotional, fuming is not something other parties expect from you. This is not only a pattern interrupt, it usually leads to larger concessions because the other side feels very uncomfortable. They want to bring you to normal level again. Quite often improved concessions are their measure of choice.

Next is excuses. Excusing is the exact opposite of the fuming tactic we discussed above. "Bob, I'm sorry that you have so many difficulties with reasoning a good price for us in your own organization. I want to apologize for that and I also want to support you in finding a way out, a way that will work for both of us." This negotiation tactic works oftentimes wonders with dominant personality types, believe it or not, because they want to be in the lead. If they receive a soft and passive answer like this, they feel confirmed in their personality and they are willing to give more than intended because they "won" over you, and winning is everything for a dominant type.

Next is confusing others. This negotiation tactic is very helpful if you want to hide certain things. Imagine your party's saying something like this. "Bob, you've said that you do not accept our payment terms. This leads to a worse cash position for us. A worse cash position will have an impact on our product pricing and how we can place and market this globally. Look at marketing online advertisement. Prices are increasing. Due to this we cannot afford to promote our joint partnership anymore." What you're doing here is to build an irrational line of arguments that are not related to each other, but you connect them in an artificial way, so to say.

Next is complaining. "Debbie, I do not like that we have limited liability in our contract. Besides that, the contract is a good deal." A late in the process negotiation tactic that helps you to leverage all that you have achieved. Use that leverage to kick the last few open items. To use this negotiation tactic in a professional way try to come up with a bucket of complaints. Then you can use them when applying this trick in a negotiation.

Next, consistency and commitment. This is one of the core influencing techniques. It's introduced in the greatest negotiation book of all times, Influence by Robert Cialdini. You apply it by reminding your counterpart of the need to be consistent. "Donna, the last two contract extensions, we kept the maintenance fee to 15% of the license price. Now you come up with 23%, and this is not consistent with previous prolongations. Keep the good relationship. Please keep this at the 15% level." But it's not like collecting yeses as I've laid out in the video I created on ProcurementZen YouTube channel. You can find it over at procurementzen.com/025, that's zero 25, for episode 25. If you want to know more about the other books on my top list, head over to my post and you'll also get a cheat sheet for Cialdini's book, too.

Next is misreading others. You could also label this negotiation technique as intentional misunderstanding. Supplier says, "Phil, it is time to discuss a price increase due to an increased cost of labor." You, "Sorry, Dan, are you serious? Do you want to throw out our four-year relationship for a tiny increase of price? You don't mean that. Do you?" Your response to the price increase from the other side is the misreading, This is a very good example. I've seen a lot because it covers two important points. First, overdramatizing the initial request from the other side, and second, anchoring a tiny price increase. It's a very powerful negotiation tactic to start discussions with your counterpart. It sets the right frame.

Next is keep your good name. You say, "David, you are the key account manager and cannot risk your prominent position. Don't make the decision of losing us as a customer for such a small topic like payment terms." This relates to the stroke-the-ego technique discussed in the series, but it requires more acting from you as a negotiator. In most of the cases you do not care what role or function the decision-maker on the other side has, but in this negotiation tactic, you focus on it and use it to your advantage.

Next is social proof. This is yet another negotiation approach that comes from Cialdini's masterpiece influence. You say, "Sam, our service center takes 1,300 calls a day. Can you miss out to be part of this opportunity with your software?" Or, "Damien, have you seen who else has partnered with us on this platform? It's the big five in the service niche. Can you risk to stand out from this elite group?" Using social proof can come in a lot of ways, but in this specific part of the series, it also includes a little bit of exaggeration. Maybe 1,300 calls is not that much. Maybe the big five are not that important, but you're acting as if they were.

And the last and final item in our ultimate list of negotiation techniques is the awards bait. "Sam, you did a great job in our relationship. You definitely deserve the rewards for closing this contract. Don't let it slip away because of a minor topic like cooperation duties." You are providing some kind of entitlement. The magic of this negotiation technique for the other side is the question, "Do I really need it? Do I want to risk something for it?" And that was it.

The final item in the ultimate list of negotiation techniques, storytelling and acting tricks. Make sure you get the show notes over at procurementzen.com/025, that's zero 25, for episode 25. Next week we will, by the way, not publish on Sunday but on Wednesday. I have a very interesting guest who will share on how you can get more out of your deals, so make sure to subscribe so you do not miss out, close better deals, and ultimately advance your career. Talk to you soon, and always happy negotiations. Yours truly, Phil. Bye.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of ProcurementZen with Phil Kowalski. For more great content and to stay up-to-date, visit procurementzen.com. If you enjoyed today's episode, please review and subscribe, and we'll catch you next time on ProcurementZen.

Episode Highlights

  • How to catch attention using subtle slides?
  • How acting dumb can prove to be helpful when negotiating?
  • Using psychological tactics to make them think it’s not worth breaking a deal?
  • Understanding to use aggressive techniques like insulting and fuming
  • Using excuses against dominant personalities
  • Understand how to build an irrational line of arguements and connect them to cause confusion
  • How to get most out of a contract using complaining in a professional way?
  • Reminding your counterpart to stay consistent
  • How to over-dramatize a situation and achor a tiny unfavorable demand with it to make a negotiation favorable for you?
  • Focusing on the role of the decision-maker and using their ego to your advantage.
  • How to use social proof to sound more credible?
  • How to bait the counterpart with awards to your advantage.

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