Selling and negotiating: 6 similar tactics

Since I was very young, I was fascinated with communication and group relations. Who gets what he or she wants, why and how did that happen? And who loses the game and what are the consequences? This is exactly why I love debates, negotiations and sales. All have to do with two persons wanting something and only one getting it.

I’ve found that if you break down the communication in both sales conversation and negotiations, you will find the same patterns and tactics that people use to convince the other party.

1. Turn on the charm

Although this one is more apparent in sales, charm is also used in negotiating to charm the judges, just in another way. In sales, charm is quite explicitly used, because if someone likes you, he or she will take advice from you way easier. My personal hero R. Cialdini explained this in his book ‘Influence’, where he lays down the groundwork of good sales.

In negotiations, this often works differently, since the ‘flirting’ must be done through more subtle tactics and more in the text than in body language. A great tactic is to make someone feel smart by saying things like ‘I get what you are saying and I think you are right, but…’. This will make the opponent less hostile and it makes you seems more balanced in your opinion, which strengthens your case. If you have the option to do so, focussing on the most sympathetic and empathetic choices will often work as well, since it adds emotional value to the arguments.

2. Use your body and surroundings.

And no, not in a dirty way. Use your hands to explain and visualize your arguments. By adding arm movements, you make the story much harder to ignore, which will make your arguments stick better.

Facial expressions are important here as well. By talking with emotion, you will attract much more attention. Emotions are stars in attracting attention, probably because people use them to estimate how safe they are by how others look at them. Keeping that in mind, you can also think of what display of emotion will help you towards your goal. Anger can put pressure on the conversation, which can put enough pressure on your opponent that he or she breaks, but it will probably leave a negative feeling in the minds of the jury and your opponent. If you keep on being kind, it can give you the benefit of goodwill, but it can weaken the perceived power of your arguments. An important remark to make here is however, that in any case, it is the most important not to come across as a liar. If the public sees you are faking your emotions, they will lose a lot of trust in anything you say.  This is where the next point becomes important.

3. Be yourself

I think in any conversation, especially in persuasive conversations, it is important to stick to your own personality. If you are a happy, bubbly person that gets excited by the product, it is great to show that, since it’s a great persuasive tool. If however, you are not, I urge you not to fake it and to find another way. Being calm and chill can also make people feel calm and it can make you feel like a very reliable source or a relatable, so that can be your strength as well, since it can add a sense of authority to you, which is one of Cialdini’s principles. The customer or jury will pick up on your honesty.

This does not say you can’t sell anything you aren’t a huge fan of, although it obviously makes it a lot easier. What you can do when selling a product you don’t love or when you’re defending a statement you don’t really agree on, is to find the positives. Most statements, opinions or products have little things you agree with, like or see the use/point of in other situations and it is up to you to find those little sparks. Don’t you like the print of the shirt you’re selling? Talk about the colors you do like, the quality of the product or find an outfit to enhance the shirt. Don’t you agree with the argument you have to defend? Think of reasons why other people would and think of situations that would call for the same mindset.

4. Relate and be relatable

Continuing on the same train of thought as the last point, it is important to really make the connection with your customer, the jury and even your opponent. You don’t have to fully agree or you can not fully understand the problem of the other person, you can turn on your empathy as much as you can. As much as the lawyer needs to understand the motives of his (guilty) clients, the salesman needs to understand where he can help the customer with his or her problem or solving his or her desire. If you can relate to the counterarguments, you will be a step closer to debunking them. This is also the part where personal anecdotes can help support your side or story. This will also add social proof, which is again one of the principles Cialdini proposed in his book Influence.

5. Be aware of your hierarchal and emotional position

Another theory I am a huge fan of is the Rose of Leary. It has in the first instance nothing to do with persuading, just with communication, but it can be used. The Rose of Leary has two axis: one from high to low status and one from against each other to together (left to right). It proposes that in social interaction, everyone is somewhere on these axis. High and left would mean someone is high in status and not ready to participate; he or she will probably make this very clear and will be pretty vocal about his or her disagreement. Low and left would mean someone is still not convinced or ready to work together to find a solution, but will be a little more quiet about it since his or her lower status, this often results in grumpiness and soft muttering or implicit sabotage like gossiping or not putting in effort to make it work. High and right means someone has a high status and is totally happy to work together and he/she is agreeing with the way everything is going. He or she will often take the lead in the conversation. Last but not least you have low and right: he or she agrees with the course of action, but is less vocal about it and does not take the lead in the conversation.

In sales, you come across all of these types. You have the grumpy customer that seems to have it out for you, fighting every argument you have. You have the silent type that nods, but you already know they aren’t going to buy anything, they just silently walk away while looking a little annoyed by your sales pitch. Then you have the customer that is very vocal about what he or she wants and whatever happens: he or she won’t go home without a solution. This can be great, since they are probably going to buy, but these types can also be difficult if you can’t give them what they want and they can ask a lot of attention. And then the more silent customer that is just buying his/her standard products or those that are willing to let you tell them why they should buy and they listen to your advice without hesitation. This is probably the most easy conversation, but customers like this are less likely to become enthusiastic about the brand, which makes it difficult to turn them into loyal customers. In the case of debate, the high and left type is most likely to be your opposite.

But why is this important? Well, if you know how, you can learn a few tricks to push people to where you want them. All the spots can typically only have one person in it. So do you want a more active customer? Don’t go to the high ‘expert’ role, but steal the place of low and right by asking lots of questions and letting the customer convince him or herself! Do you want the silent complainer to be more vocal about the problems, so that you can help better? Be a little humble! Also, it creates cognitive dissonance (an uneasy feeling you get when you do something that doesn’t fit you or the situation) if you keep being right (happy and enthusiastic), whilst the customer was originally more to the left. That is why often, when you keep staying right although you are probably secretly pretty annoyed, the customer will slowly start to become more reasonable, since he finds it uneasy to keep being mean, whilst you keep being sweet and polite. This also works in harsh negotiations, since the opponent won’t escalate his/her arguments if you stay calm and sweet and even if he/she does, it will make you look more in control and it will devaluate their trustworthiness as a source of information.

Does this not work? A short ‘tick’ can help: just make one short remark that is a little more ‘left’ to then go back to right immediately. For example, a customer keeps on complaining about the pace you work at. By making a short remark like ‘Unfortunately I only have two hands, so I hope you can please have some patience. I will help you as soon as I can.’ you can put the customer in it’s place, showing them it is not okay to behave this way, but after that showing immediate, meant(!) willingness to help that person nonetheless, it can help to put the situation in perspective for the customer. Giving a tick does however not mean you can be rude or mean to the customer.

6. Have a backpack full of knowledge

I am a firm believer that if you know a lot about a topic, you will be much more relaxed in the conversation. This is why I believe it is very important to have a lot of knowledge about the topic or product, even if you are not going to use 95% of it. It will make you more of an expert, which is practical, because people listen better to people they perceive as an authority on the subject. It will also make you a lot more confident, since you know you can answer any question the customer will have. But the last part is maybe even the most important reason to me: information can be a huge source of inspiration to fuel your own enthusiasm! Knowing interesting facts can make you want to tell, and thereby sell the product, so find out where it’s made and what the most important features are. Sell it to yourself first and only then, you can sell it to the customer.

I hope you found this article helpful and I am very curious to hear about other tactics that work for you! Please let me know in the comments below!

Lots of love,


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Hi there! My name is Lisa and I am the author of Mind and Body Intertwined. I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in psychology. During my study, I found out how much the mind and the body are connected and it fascinated me, which is why I started my blog. Would you like to join me on this little corner of the world?

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