There is a certain amount of confusion when we talk about negotiation as to whether we mean negotiation or persuasion. In my first blog in this series I defined negotiation as being a process which required both parties to be able to vary the terms. The very nature of negotiation requires both parties to move closer together to achieve a compromise.

Persuasion or influencing on the other hand is the process of getting the other side to do what you want them to do.

Often the art of persuasion is called negotiation. I had an example of that this week when I attended the Association of Professional Sales’s latest seminar which was given by Richard Mullender, who styles himself “the hostage negotiator”. Yet almost his first words were to say that the process he used to be involved in was NOT a process of negotiation, because there was no compromise. He was never in a situation where he could comply with the hostage taker’s demands; his sole focus was to “get them off the roof or get them free”.

Effective persuasion skills in negotiation
To be an effective negotiator you need to recognise when and how you need to use persuasion skills. This is likely to happen at points in the negotiation where you do not seem able to agree. It is also important to understand how to persuade effectively in these situations.

In our 2014 global negotiation survey we asked respondents which persuasion strategy they would use in such a situation. The highest number voted for asking the other side to present their point of view; followed by asking questions. The positive here is the relatively low number who would just present their own point of view. This is because we know from our research into persuasion that presenting our own opinion will not necessarily change somebody else’s. Logic is not persuasive!

In his presentation yesterday Mullender substantiates this from his own experience by saying that he is not looking to change the other person’s opinion. He is merely looking to understand their opinion so that he can use it against them to get the outcome he is looking for.

Although asking the other side to present is the most popular option overall it is not the most popular for those respondents to our survey who claimed to be very successful (by this we mean that over 75% of their negotiations were successfully implemented without the need to renegotiate). In comparison the Unsuccessful group (who had to renegotiate more than 50% of their negotiations) were far more likely to ask the other side to present.

Use of questioning to aid persuasion in negotiation
Questions are powerful because they get the other side talking. But the real art of questioning lies in listening to what is said. This does not mean hanging onto every word. Mullender’s definition of listening is “the identification, selection and interpretation of key words that turn information into intelligence”. His definition of intelligence is “information that you use to your and their advantage”.

In selling situations the key words that a user of our SPIN® Selling Skills model would be listening out for are Implied and Explicit Needs. An effective salesperson is somebody who can turn that information into intelligence in the form of Benefit statements.

Making Benefit statements requires sellers to dig into the problems or Implied Needs, which is exactly the same as Mullender’s advice to “steer into the distress” in hostage situations. Only by uncovering the true source of the distress can you then identify the Explicit Needs (what the other side wants to do about it) and hence make Benefit statements. Unsurprisingly Mullender makes reference to SPIN® as a “stunningly clever” model for use in these situations.

In conclusion we can say that although negotiation can be viewed as a different part of the process and a different skill set to selling/persuasion an effective negotiator still needs to be able to deploy appropriate persuasion skills and strategies in a negotiation situation. This is why we advocate that negotiators should learn effective sales skills as well as negotiating skills to help them achieve win-win outcomes.

Janet Curran, Head of Thought Leadership, Huthwaite International