The Top Emotional Sales Negotiation Tactics
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Engaging in a negotiation with a potential customer is part art and part science. Understandably, both sides wish to get the best deal, both sides are afraid of failure, and both expect the other to be fair to them.

All of this means that negotiations are intensely emotional and, while emotions can hinder negotiations, in many cases they can also play a vital role in helping to drive negotiations forward so that an agreement can be reached.

For this reason, it is important that those who are regularly involved in negotiations are not only equipped with basic emotional intelligence, but that they also possess emotional sales negotiation skills and knowledge. This can potentially help them to improve rapport and subtly influence outcomes, which is why businesses are increasingly investing in negotiation training programmes that teach some of these skills.

In this article, we take a closer look at the topic of emotional sales negotiation tactics, highlight some key research on the topic, and give examples of some of the skills and strategies that can be developed in order to improve outcomes and turn people into more effective, emotionally receptive negotiators.

Playing Fair

In order to demonstrate the nature of fairness and our perceptions of it with regards to negotiations, a team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles devised a study. The basic concept was that one person was given a sum of money and was asked to split it between themselves and someone else, at a rate they could both agree on. If the second person refused the offer, they would both get nothing.

Logically, based on pure self-interest, the second person should accept any offer they are presented with by the first person - after all, it is free money and refusing it means they get nothing at all. However, people have an instinctive sense of justice, which ultimately prevented this from happening. In actual fact, this sense of justice or injustice meant that most people rejected anything that was below 20-30 percent of the full amount.

Brain scans on the participants in the study also found that offers that were deemed unfair triggered a response in the anterior insula, a region of the brain that is most typically associated with 'disgust' reactions. Although we tend to think of a negotiation as two people or two parties looking after their own self interest, the reality is that the real keys to carrying out successful negotiations are fairness, justice and respect.

Therefore, the first and most essential emotional sales negotiation tactic is to be as fair as possible. However, it is equally important to understand that the idea of what is fair cannot be dictated. For instance, rather than saying "this offer is fair", former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, suggests that negotiation training should teach people to use phrases like "stop me if you think I'm being unfair" instead, as this opens up a dialogue about fairness.

Demonstrating Empathy

In addition to being sensitive towards the concept of fairness, the best negotiators also have the ability to empathise with the people they are negotiating with.

In more simple terms, when it comes to negotiating, this means that they have both the capacity and ability to put themselves in the other person's shoes, see things from their perspective, understand how they are feeling, and have a basic sense of what their motivations are.

See our pages on Empathy and Types of Empathy for more.

Displaying empathy during sales negotiations is an effective emotional tactic, because it allows the other person to see that you actually care about what they are going to get out of the negotiation, shows them that you have at least considered their predicament, and suggests that you want a positive outcome for both parties.

However, actually demonstrating empathy can be quite challenging. Over-doing it can come across as patronising and it is also absolutely vital that you understand that there is a difference between empathising with someone and putting words into their mouth, or casting aspersions about what they think, or how they feel.

There are certain tricks that can be used to avoid this pitfall. One trick is to phrase expressions of empathy in a way that avoids definitive statements. For instance, rather than saying "I can tell you are holding back because..." or "I know you are worried about..." you could instead say things like "It seems to me that what might be holding you back is..." or "It sounds like you are worried about..." instead.

Reducing Anxiety

Finally, anxiety is perhaps the single most self-damaging emotion and anxiety on either side of a sales negotiation can be extremely detrimental.

Therefore, it needs to be controlled. One tactic for achieving this on the sales side of the equation is to have a solid sales development strategy. When a salesperson knows they have multiple realistic opportunities in the pipeline, a lot of the anxiety-inducing all or nothing thinking subsides.

"The brain loves options. A salesperson should always have more than one significant opportunity in the pipeline," says Sherrie Campbell, a psychologist and author, writing for "This leads to increased confidence and less anxiety when negotiating. Thus the salesperson doesn't feel desperate."

For businesses, one option here is to have a dedicated sales development team, which deals exclusively with outbound prospecting, enabling negotiators to work their way through a steady stream of quality prospects.

Of course, at the same time, it is also extremely important to eliminate anxiety on the other side of the negotiation too. The first step is to go into any negotiation in a relaxed fashion, as this will immediately help to alleviate some of the anxiety on the other side. Similarly, it is important to try to remain calm during the discussions, even if you disagree with what is being said, and avoid raised voices or provocative responses.

Eradicating all anxiety from a sales negotiation is unrealistic, but it can certainly be reduced. Developing patience, putting people at ease, spotting the signs of tension developing and easing that tension are all skills that can take some time to work on, but they will all ultimately help to improve outcomes.

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About the Author

Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global customer experience and sales training company. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to develop better sales skills in sales people for sales development.