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Are You an Effective Negotiator?

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Jun 30th 2020 1:20PM

Before accepting a load, buying a new truck, or signing any contract for your expedite business, make sure that you’re happy with the terms.

But when presented with an unfair offer, how should you respond?

Do you have the negotiation chops to arrive at a more favorable agreement?

Try this quiz to find out.

#1. True or false: Your voice has no significant impact on your ability to negotiate favorable terms.

#2. Which is a more powerful tactic for winning people over to your point of view?
a) Shame
b) Empathy
c) Flattery
d) Strong-arming

#3. Someone gives you an insulting offer. What’s the most effective response?
a) “No way. That’s not going happen.”
b) “Your offer is insulting.”
c) “How am I supposed to do that?”
d) “That won’t work for me.

#4. Which price is more likely to be agreed upon?
a) $2,500
b) $2,503

#5. If you’re the buyer, at what percentage of your target price should you open your negotiation?
a) 50%
b) 65%
c) 75%
d) 80%

How did you do?

Let’s go over each of the five questions and the answers to find out!

Never Split the Difference: Chris Voss
I developed these quiz questions after reading “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as Your Life Depended on It,” by former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss.

In fact, I first purchased the book on Audible. And, after listening to it several times, I had gotten so much out of it, that I ordered the hardcopy to do a deeper dive so that I could share my notes with you.

I've read a lot of great books on negotiation, but this one is the best so far—a must-read for any expediter (or any business person, for that matter).

So, here are the answers to the quiz questions, with a breakdown of “the why” behind the answers, to see how you did.

1. True or false: Your voice has no significant impact on your ability to negotiate favorable terms.
A: False

Says Voss: “Your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice.”

  • The positive/ playful voice: This should be our default voice. The idea is to smile while talking.
  • Late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively. It communicates confidence and calm: “I’ve got it covered.”
  • Direct or assertive voice: Use rarely. It can cause your counterpart to shut down, especially if you use it too often.

When we encounter potential conflict, we often default to the direct or assertive voice, which increases the tension. Instead, be intentional with using the right voice in the right situation—to ensure your voice is working for you, not against you.

2. Which is a more powerful tactic for winning people over to your point of view?
A: b) Empathy

Says Voss: “Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done. It’s emotional intelligence on steroids.”

Voss gives this example of what tactical empathy looks like as an FBI agent negotiating with a hostage-taker: “It looks like you don’t want to come out. It seems like you worry that if you open the door, we’ll come in with guns blazing. It looks like you don’t want to go back to jail.”

The important goal here is to get the other person to agree with you in a way that they say “That’s right,” not “You’re right.”

Why the distinction?

According to Voss, when the other person says, “Okay, you’re right,” what they’re really mean is, “I just want you off my back.”

But when they respond with “That’s right!” now you’re making progress. That’s because they’re thinking, “Yes—You get it! You understand me!” And that’s only possible when you genuinely try to understand them through empathy.

3. Someone gives you an insulting offer. What’s the most effective response?
A: c) “How am I supposed to do that?”

Voss’s advice: Learn to say “No” without saying “No.” But how?

By using calibrated questions that signal your refusal without attacking the other person’s ego.

What’s an example of a calibrated question?

Voss’s favorite: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Here’s why. Think about how we tend to say “No” to an offer:

  • “That won’t work for me.”
  • “No way. That’s not going to happen."
  • “I can’t do it for that amount.”
  • “Your offer is insulting.”

The problem with statements like these is that they can come across as attacking the person’s ego, which shuts down the negotiation.
But when you ask a genuine, calibrated question like, "How am I supposed to do that?" this invites your counterpart to collaborate with you on the problem. And that keeps the conversation moving toward a resolution.

Other examples of calibrated questions:

  • “What about this is important to you?"
  • “How can I help make this better for us?”
  • “How would you like me to proceed?”
  • “What is it that brought us into this situation?”
  • “How can we solve this problem?”

4. Which price is more likely to be agreed upon?
A: b) $2,503

But wait! $2,503 is higher than $2,500.

Yes. But Voss recommends that when you talk numbers, use odd ones. Here’s why:

“Anything you throw out that sounds less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of thoughtful calculation. Such numbers feel serious and permanent to your counterpart, so use them to fortify your offers.”

5. If you’re the buyer, at what percentage of your target price should you open your negotiation?
A: b) 65%

Voss recommends using the “Ackerman Model,” which he names after Mike Ackerman, an ex-CIA agent who founded a kidnap-for-ransom consulting company based out of Miami. Here are the five steps that comprise the Ackerman Model for negotiation.

Step #1: Set your target price (your goal).

Step #2: Set your first offer at 65% of your target price.

Step #3: Calculate three raises of increments (to 85, 95, and 100% of your target price)

Step #4: Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter
before you increase your offer.

Step #5: When calculating the final amount, use precise, non-round numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.

Step #6: On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

The Ackerman Model summarizes (in a neat package) many of the techniques Voss shares in the book. Experiment with the opening anchor of 65% of the target price. This process helps take some of the emotion out of the negotiation process so that you can stay focused on your objective.