The Power of Persuasion: The Truth About Negotiation


If we’re going to study the art of negotiation we need to understand the part persuasion and influence play in negotiating.

If you think you’re going into a negotiation from a weak position you must use persuasive tools to enhance your negotiating abilities and position.

If you’re in a strong position, without the proper tools you can end up being taken advantage of, giving away more than you intended to.

Learning to use the power of persuasion will allow you to negotiate anything from a stronger position.

What is Negotiating?

Negotiating is behavior modification through applied psychology. You are persuading someone to modify his behavior using specific psychological tools.

Is this ethical?

Everyone goes into a negotiation knowing two things:

  • they want to get something
  • they want to give just enough to get what they want

As a parent you start early modifying your kid’s behavior. So by the time he’s 6 and he’s asking for an ice cream, he’s got some tools in his back pocket to strengthen his position.

He’ll only ask after a meal, when the likelihood of getting a ‘yes’ is higher. Or she’ll monitor your moods and modify your behavior by asking when she knows you’re in a good mood.

Negotiating is as old as humans. It’s a lot older than selling.

We negotiate everything constantly. You even negotiate with yourself all day long, “I’m so in the mood for nachos.”

“Nope, not today. You had 3 beers last night!”

“Ok, today I’ll have a salad and this weekend I’ll treat myself to nachos.”

Negotiations happen all day everyday inside each of us about everything.

So how do we plan for successful negotiations even when we’re negotiating from a weak position? How do we get what we want and only give what we need to give?

Last week I laid out the strategy I use for every single negotiation I do. This week we’re going to learn the 6 principles of persuasion I use to strengthen my position.

Related Post: Why Negotiation Matters: Do You Suffer From A Negotiating Problem? 
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Related Post: How to Lose A Customer in 10 Ways

6 Principles of Persuasion

What are the factors that make us say ‘yes’ in a negotiation? That’s a subject that has been studied informally for centuries, if not millennia. And formally for the last 60 years.

There seems to be a consensus that persuasion is not just an art, it’s a science. And my friend Robert Cialdini has been at the forefront of much of that research.

He’s boiled persuasion and saying ‘yes’ down to 6 mental shortcuts many of us take when reaching a decision. Let’s look at each one and how it relates to negotiation.

1. Reciprocity

Robert says, “people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift or service that they have received first.”

What’s the most important word in that sentence? ‘first’ – people will give back what they get first.

So in a negotiation give first. How does this relate to my strategy of ‘Never go first’? My strategy of ‘never go first’ is specifically for never naming your price first. But if there is a term of the negotiation you can let go of, do it before you negotiate anything else.

That way, your negotiating partner will feel obliged to return the favor somewhere in the negotiation.

Just make sure you’re giving away something you can live without. Make sense?

2. Scarcity

This principle says people want more of what they can have less of; they want what they can’t have. Nothing new there. Even animals exhibit this behavior.

But this is knowledge that shouldn’t be exploited. Not just because it’s not cool or ethical to exploit it. But also because you want to use the Principle of Scarcity… scarcely, sparsely.

If you overuse the Scarcity Principle people will stop trusting you. Then you’ll have to say goodbye to your negotiating days because who’ll want to negotiate with you if they don’t trust you? 😉

3. Authority

Robert says that “people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.” This is an advantage if you’re an expert in whatever it is you’re negotiating. But even if you’re not an expert in, say, the washer and dryer you’re selling, you can still use this principle.

I love to negotiate. I’ll negotiate anything, anytime, anywhere. After spending a lifetime negotiating everything, my mom is sick of me. But more importantly, I’ve become an expert. I’m an expert negotiator.

So when I’m negotiating with someone I naturally ‘take the lead’ of the negotiation for two reasons. The first reason is because of my very first strategy, Win-Win or No Deal. I know I have their best interest at heart.

So I’m not going to negotiate in bad faith. I trust myself.

And secondly, because I’m an expert! You might say I’m an authority. I usually end up ‘guiding’ us through the negotiating process because I’m so comfortable doing it. It’s just a natural inclination I have because I’ve been doing it for so long.

Maybe you’ll never be an expert in car sales but you can definitely become an expert negotiator and use your comfort level as an ‘authority’ in the process.

You can become an authority in the process of negotiation and people will trust your expertise. And if they’ve worked with you in the past and know, like and trust you they will trust you as an authority in the negotiation process.

Being a skilled and expert negotiator is an invaluable skill to have, so much so that it’s a niche industry. Don’t underestimate your ability to become an expert in this area of your business.

4. Consistency

Believe it or not, people like to be consistent in their word and deed.

When you ask for a small commitment from someone they will be more likely to make a greater commitment later on. The example Robert gives is a study of health centers. They were able to reduce missed appointments by 18%. How?

They asked the patient to write down the appointment date and time rather than having the receptionist do it.

So how does this principle work in negotiations?

You can have a significantly more successful negotiation by asking for a small commitment before you ask for a bigger commitment. For instance, before every negotiation I like to ask, “can I get your assurance that we negotiate fairly and end up with a win-win for both of us?”

I always get a ‘yes’ when I ask this. By asking this I’m asking my negotiating partner to make a small commitment now. And according to this principle, this will yield a greater commitment later on in the negotiation.

This example is anecdotal from my own experience. But I always get the results I want from every negotiation.

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5. Liking

How do you get someone to like you?

According to Robert’s authority on the subject, there are 3 reasons why we like people:

  • We like people who are similar to us
  • We like people who pay us compliments
  • We like people who cooperate with us in reaching mutual goals

This last one is perfect for negotiations. If you start a negotiation telling and showing your negotiating partner that you’re ‘in this together’ and you will work for a win-win you’re already setting yourself up to be liked.

Have I negotiated with people I don’t like? Yes.

Have I negotiated with people who didn’t pay me a compliment and who I didn’t compliment? Of course.

But have I ever negotiated with someone while not cooperating in the negotiation? No. Is it even possible? I suppose it is if you don’t care about the outcome.

In my opinion, the person you are negotiating with is your partner, not your opponent. I don’t believe in viewing the other person like that.

I go into every negotiation seeking a win-win or there’s no deal. Period. So anyone who negotiates with me knows I’m a cooperating partner. That’s how I protect my reputation.

6. Consensus

Consensus means getting a general agreement from everyone. And according to Robert when people are uncertain they will look to others to determine their next step or action.

So if you’re in a negotiation and you’re unsure of what to do next I have a crazy suggestion. Ask your negotiating partner, “I’m not sure what to do here. Do you?”

That level of vulnerability can aid in a mutually beneficial outcome.

And it can also create affinity, which is a strategy we’ll discuss next week.

Even if you know the answer to the question you ask, simply asking the question creates consensus. How?

Say you’re negotiating with someone over their used car. You can create consensus in two ways.

One, you can find mutual agreement on the types of cars you both like. Two, you can ask her what types of car she likes or what kind of car she’s going to buy after she sells this one.

That creates consensus and affinity. Sounds like a small, inconsequential detail. But those moments add up in a negotiation.

Also, it never hurts to ask, “What would you do?” Especially if you’re confused about how to proceed. Or, most importantly, if you’ve reached an impasse in your negotiations.

If that happens, it is definitely ok to ask how to proceed, or what the other person really wants to walk away with.

People love to be asked their opinion and advice. And in return for your trust they give you advice that will usually benefit you.

Mind you, all of these principles are predicated on the assumption you’re not negotiating with an underhanded twerp.

Related Post: Why Negotiation Matters: Do You Suffer From A Negotiating Problem? 
Related Post: This is How You Sell Anything 
Related Post: How to Lose A Customer in 10 Ways

The Wrap Up

In life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what negotiate.

And we are negotiating all the time for everything. We are in constant negotiations with ourselves, our loved ones, our co-workers, our neighbors, our fellow drivers, etc.

Learning to become a good negotiator is not just good for your business. Being a skilled negotiator means you will get more out of life in every way. And believe me when I say…

Everything in life is a negotiation.

Even the flowers negotiate with each other to find their spot in the Sun.

Becoming a good negotiator will give you the best life you can attain for you, your business and the people you love.

And being an ethical negotiator isn’t just a bonus. It means protecting your reputation, your relationships and the life of your business.

Use these persuasion principles to advance your knowledge and skill at negotiating. Your success is the difference between living in the shade and finding the Sun.

What’s one area where entrepreneurs fall short as good negotiators?

Business meetings.

Click here for a FREE PDF tutorial on how to negotiate your way through powerful business meetings. Stop the energy suck of unproductive meetings and learn to be more effective in them.

How are your negotiating skills?

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