Hostage Negotiation Tips to Improve Your Sales Calls

Think you’ve had to make a high stakes deal before? Think again!

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, and someone who knows a thing or two about getting what he wants from a tricky phone call. He’s had terrorists, kidnappers and murderers hand themselves in. He’s also someone who sees the importance of this level of persuasion in the business world.

If you genuinely take the time to study up and incorporate these hostage negotiation tips into your sales calls, you might just stumble upon a sure-fire winning strategy.

Here are some key hostage negotiation tips to improve your sales calls

The 5 Steps Used by the FBI’s Hostage Negotiation Unit

The FBI’s hostage negotiation unit uses a 5 step model to help others see your point of view and change their actions as a result.

“Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better”

Chris Voss, Former FBI Hostage Negotiator

1. Active Listening

So, you’ve got something to say… you just need to wait for the person to finish their point so you can make yours. We’ll let you in on a little secret – while you’re making your point, the other person is doing the same. You’re not going to get anywhere in a conversation like this.

Enter active listening – quite possibly the most important step in the whole process.

Active listening is about not having your counter-argument, reproach or sales patter sitting ready and waiting for when the other person stops talking.

It’s about avoiding interruptions, disagreements or evaluations of the other person’s statements. Take in what they say, show them you’re listening, repeat back their point (without being weird about it) and ask questions where you need them to elaborate.

2. Showing Empathy

Showing empathy is about taking the time to actually understand the plight of the person you’re talking to. This is about more than merely acting like you understand. Make the other person feel as though you care about the difficulties and struggles they’re encountering.

Don’t just dismiss their concerns, give their concerns the platform and airtime they deserve. Make them know that these are entirely valid and worthwhile discussing further.

3. Rapport & the Two Magic Words

There are two magic words you want to hear when showing empathy to the other person – ‘that’s right’.

This makes the person feel like you truly understand their situation and concerns. When you’ve got them saying ‘that’s right’, you’re making progress. Paraphrasing and exploring the avenues of their concerns with an objective viewpoint is a great way to do this.

This is when you’re really building rapport with the person.This is about the person genuinely embracing your ideas and understanding of the situation. Anything you say from now will be perceived as coming from someone who is fully informed in their plight.

4. Influencing Their View

They’ve got a problem which you have taken the time to genuinely understand. Now work with them to overcome that issue. Find the resolutions together and ask them how these would work out from their perspective. Recommend resolutions but talk them through and get their insights – make them feel like they’re coming up with the resolution with you.

You’re not selling to them, you’re not telling them the best course of action to take, you’re merely influencing their attitude to your recommended resolution.

5. Behavioural Change

This is when they take the action you’ve been suggesting and are eager to do so. Follow the four prior steps and this one will come naturally.

Hostage Negotiation Tips to Use on Your Next Call

Here are hostage negotiation hacks that’ll boost your influence and help put the above steps in motion.

Mirroring & Paraphrasing Your Counterpart

When the other person is speaking, choose between either mirroring their point or paraphrasing. There’s a subtle difference between the two and both are worth using when you get the opportunity.

Mirroring is when you repeat a few keywords from your counterpart’s statement back to them as a question. This receives confirmation and demonstrates empathy, leading to rapport.

Paraphrasing is when you take the sentiment of the statement and repeat it in your own words. This is especially powerful because you’re reflecting their point with new and fresh words, showing just how much you understand. This is a great way of getting the all-important ‘that’s right’ response.

Get Them to Say No

Get people to say no… not yes!

In daily life, we’re bombarded by a constant need to say yes… Do you want the latest season’s clothes? Are you struggling with credit card debt? Is now a good time to talk?

The problem is, when we’re being sold to, saying yes often happens through gritted teeth. It means less but is harder to come by. Saying no feels more relaxed, it feels more empowering and it goes against the psychological anguish which comes with backing yourself into a corner through another’s leading questions.

Give Up on Asking Why

When you ask a person why they feel a specific way, the question is layered with accusation. You’re subconsciously communicating that their perspective is wrong, your view is superior and they should think carefully before answering. This leads to a defensive response.

Try changing ‘why’ to ‘what’ or ‘how’. Think ‘what made you choose that option?’ or ‘how did you come to that decision?’ – it gives the speaker the feeling that their decision was based on sound judgement at the time.

Talk to the Individual

People like to feel special. Stop talking to each person like they belong in a universal pigeon-hole.

Talk to your counterpart like an individual. Drop in personal information you know about them, use their name frequently and develop your sales pitch around their unique circumstances. When explaining benefits, say them in terms of the person or business individually and their specific context.

It’s simple but incredibly powerful.

Feeling Stuck in Your Own Hostage Situation?

Do you feel like you’re a hostage in your own agency? We know how it feels. An escape is possible. We work with the very best candidates and clients, taking the time to talk to you to truly understand what you’re looking for from your next move in the industry. Get in touch today for a confidential conversation about your options. You can also upload your CV below or browse our job board to get a feel for the type of roles we have on offer.

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