TRS 011: Brandon Voss Tactical Negotiator at Black Swan Group
What does an FBI hostage negotiator have to teach us about marketing and closing more sales? That’s what we are asking on today’s episode of The Revenue Stream as we sit down with Brandon Voss of the Black Swan Group.
Every step of the sales processes is a negotiation where your goal is to learn as much about your prospect as possible, but sometimes it’s hard to get good answers to tough questions. So what is the best way to navigate these sales calls? We’ll explore how business leaders can instantly become more likeable by acting as a guide for their customers as well as getting beyond common ground.
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Marcus: Hey there, marketing and business leaders. I’m Marcus Grimm, and welcome to this episode of The Revenue Stream. And you know, sometimes in marketing, we have a tendency to want to simplify things. We like to think that, “Hey, if I’ve got an offering, the prospect has a need, I either fulfill that need or I don’t.” But truth is, there’s a whole other process in the messy middle of all this that can truly make the difference between a sale you make and a seal you don’t. And I’m talking here about negotiation: that often frustrating back and forth part that either makes, well, everybody happy or nobody happy or maybe just one party happy. Well today’s expert on the subject is Brandon Voss. Now, who is Brandon Voss? I’m happy you asked. Let’s tell you who he is. Brandon is the Director of Training and Operations for the Black Swan Group, which is headed up by himself and his father Chris Voss.
Marcus: And if that name sounds familiar to you, that’s because he is the author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It. I first was made aware of this book pretty soon after it came out, and I have since recommended it to tons of people– an outstanding book. Now if the title sounds dramatic, well it’s because it is. Chris actually spent several decades as an FBI hostage negotiator, and while that’s certainly sounds sexy, I’m glad we have Brandon here today because my guess is the Brandon is like a lot of us on this call sees Chris has worked through a slightly different lens. In other words, how do we use these negotiation strategies and tactics to be businessmen and to make sales– as a businessman trying to close a deal, not necessarily to try to save a life? So today we will be discussing the similarities between the two as well as their differences. Brandon Voss, welcome to the program.
Brandon: Marcus, thank you for having me, man. I’m glad to be here with you today.
Marcus: We are thrilled to have you here, but before we get into some of your history and some of the good stuff, give us the elevator pitch. What does the Black Swan Group do?
Brandon: Well, it’s interesting, right? Because we actually are against elevator pitches in general. And so an elevator pitch form us would first probably come from a proof of life, like a “why” question. Why would you ever ever consider negotiation training in the first place? And then the answer to that is really going to dictate how we want to respond and move the conversation forward.
Marcus: You know, one of the things that at that I absolutely love about the way you guys approach everything is you really do try to avoid those canned statements, and you’re far more interested in asking the right questions. Is that fair?
Brandon: Yeah, I think there’s pretty accurate. Yeah, very much so.
Marcus: Brandon, I’ve heard you joke about the fact that you were always the most popular kid at school on Bring-Your-Dad-to-Work day. Who wouldn’t be when you’re bringing in an FBI negotiator?! But I’m going to guess that, like most young men, um, did you always think your dad was awesome when you were growing up?
Brandon: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think like a lot of little boys are lucky enough to have a good dad around. I just always saw my dad was awesome just because he was my dad. You know, what he did for work, it was just his job. So as a kid he was just, he was a cool guy just because he was my pops.
Marcus: And then do you recognize– was there a point in your life when you realized, “Oh, wait a second, what he does for a living, I understand how that could be useful in my own life.” Was that kind of a moment for you, or did it come over time?
Brandon: Yeah. You know, it’s a real interesting question. You know, as a young kid I probably didn’t notice it as much. As I grew older, you turn 13, 14, and you started to get to a point where you feel like you’re smarter than your parents. I think what was actually happening at that age because I was noticing more and more how my father dealt with people, you know, just in day to day conversation. I didn’t have the luxury of being able to watch him negotiate with terrorists on a regular basis, but seeing him interact with just regular people and how he communicated with them. And starting to use some of that myself, but mostly to get out of trouble in my high school year. I think that’s probably where I first incorporated the most was when I needed to get myself out of water as were.
Marcus: We’re going to come back to that one because there’s a story or two there! But you know, it’s interesting when you talk about applying the same things that an FBI negotiator in a terrorist situation would do in real life. As a professional negotiator, what are the two or three things that you see people consistently get wrong according to the methodology that you and your father kind of honed?
Brandon: Yeah. It’s going to be a mix of kind of what people get wrong and what we tend to put too much emphasis on, and one of those things is people tend to lean too much on common ground. We know that human connections are important and personalization is important and rapport is important, and we think that the only way to get there is with some form of common ground. Well, what’s great about the hostage negotiation world is all of those things were essential pieces of the communication process, but there was never a common ground to be had.
Brandon: What common ground are you going to find between you and that individual? So how do you create understanding? How do you create rapport and trust without having to lean on common ground? And so, you know, that’s probably one and another big one is implementation.
Brandon: You know, a big part of any hostage siege or barricaded suspect is the implementation of how it’s going to look when they come out. How it’s going to look when we get the hostages back in our hands. How things are going play out or actually executing what we’ve agreed to. And that’s a huge component of hostage negotiation, and in a lot of ways it’s somewhat overlooked in business because either there’s another team that handles implementation or sometimes we’re just flat out scared of it because we know that there are problems our customers are going to run into during implementation, and we’re afraid if we tell him about that stuff and try to lay all that out, we’re going to lose the business all together. So just get them in the door and then we’ll hope for the best! But we don’t talk about it. And then then things blow up in our face because implementation wasn’t focused on. So that’s the second, and then the third is coming to the table with the assumption that the other side has an open mind. Coming to the table with the assumption that they’re here because they want to know what we have to say, and that is often not the case.
Marcus: Let’s go into that one a bit more so. So why do they come to the table then?
Brandon: Well, people have their own preconceived notions. They have their own reasons for being there. And that’s more important than whatever data you think you need to prove to them. You know in the sales process, we want to agree to value leakage and we want to agree to loss of value. And that is all predicated on: we’re going to explain to them all the things they’re doing wrong in their business, and then we want to get them to say yes that we agree that everything you said we’re doing wrong is right. “Oh, please help us. Thank you for showing us the light!” And unfortunately, it just doesn’t play out that way.
Marcus: Right, no, it doesn’t. Let’s go back to this common ground one. That’s the first thing here that you’re really throwing me for a loop on. And I’m picturing, you know, every salesperson that I’ve ever dealt with. They want to know, where did I go to college. They want to know what type of car do I drive. They’re seeking that common ground. Is your opinion that the common ground is irrelevant or is it just overplayed?
Brandon: My first reaction, these days– and I probably would have a different answer for you six or seven years ago– I would say that it’s completely irrelevant.
Marcus: Wow, that’s–
Brandon: And, yeah, it sounds crazy. It sounds crazy, and really kind of for two reasons. Number one: no one’s going to agree to give me $1 million because their kid plays in little league and my kid plays in little league.
Marcus: Haha, it’s a big ask, isn’t it?
Brandon: Right. Yeah. And then, secondarily, something we’ve been talking to a lot of people about lately is there’s a real fine line between being likable and being nice.
Marcus: Oh, interesting.
Brandon: And the common ground thing is really in this direction of trying to be really nice, but what happens if you don’t have common ground with that person or they really don’t care that much about common ground? Even more so what people use common ground for is a segue to get to real business, get down to brass tacks.
Brandon: And we don’t know a good way to do it. So we have this small talk about the weather and, “Oh, how was your vacation?” Then it makes the transition that much “easier,” but, when you really think about it, it does, right? You basically get to the “Soooo, to business?” part of the conversation. And so knowing the common ground– I’m not going to get a million dollars because my kid plays baseball too. Then also there’s a really good chance that they’re trying to find a way to get down to brass tacks as well, and if I can make that road easier for them, that automatically makes me more likable.
Marcus: So let’s talk about that, and, boy, you’re describing the types of sales call that we’ve all seen on both ends of the table: I come in, I seek some common ground (“Oh, the weather’s great. The weather’s horrible. My kid plays little league. Does your kid play little league?”). Tell me how you think a call should open up.
Brandon: So the first thing is: if you’re going to call somebody, especially when we’re talking cold call, but in general, the first thing you got to establish is that you are not going to waste their time.
Marcus: Got it.
Brandon: And there’s two ways that you do that, and the one we talk about very specifically in the book is simply opening was a “no oriented” question. And then the second part of that is making sure that they know that you’re going to get them off the phone in 20 minutes.
Marcus: Got it. So letting them know right away what those clear expectations are there. There’s not going to be short talk, there’s not going to be chit chat.
Brandon: Right, yeah. There’s kinda two ways to approach it. Number one: we talk about in the book, is simply saying, “Is now a bad time? Did I catch you in the middle of something?” You’re trying to get a no; “No, it’s not a bad time. No, you didn’t catch me in the middle of something.” And then you’re going to throw in another “no oriented” question very shortly on the heels of that in the form of something along the lines of, “Am I totally going to screw up your day by soaking up the next 20 minutes?”
Marcus: Really going in from the “no side” of it. You know, as I was reading the book, myself and some other people listening to the podcast who are familiar with the Sandler School of Selling, some of those techniques certainly remind me of some of your stuff: coming from that negative side, those “no oriented” questions. A) There are effective and B) There nontraditional.
Brandon: Yeah, and Sandler does some good things– no knock on Sandler. They also have a good program. Along the lines of what you said, the word smithing on the way that we work with our clients as corporate individuals I think is really where we set ourselves apart. But going for the no, letting the other side know that they can turn you down/ that it’s okay to reject me, automatically helps them protect their autonomy. And at the end of the day, human nature, people want to protect autonomy above anything else.
Marcus: Correct. That’s a huge point of the book that I thought was really great. So you know, when you talk about negotiations, I think one of the things that’s interesting is lots of times when we get into a negotiation, whether that be a business deal or anything else, we talk about this concept of winning and losing. And what I want to know is, from your methodology, is that the goal? Are we trying to win? Are we trying to avoid losing? What’s the goal of a perfect negotiation?
Brandon: Yeah. You know, that’s a good question, and it’s a tough question, which is one of the reasons why we all think about it in those terms. And, really, something you’ve probably heard me say before, your circumstance is going to drive your strategy. That’s also going to drive your results, and so number one: I think if we can get out of the mindset of winning and losing in a negotiation– because the purpose of a negotiation is to make yourself smarter.
Marcus: Oh, interesting.
Brandon: And so we say, “Well if we didn’t make a deal, we lost.” Well did you get smarter in the process? And so that should be a number one goal. And that said, I mean these days when we talked to people on our end, our first goal is we’re going to get on the phone or we’re going to sit down with them in person. We’re going to hear what they have to say, and we’re going to agree to another meeting.
Marcus: Always going for that next meeting.
Brandon: Exactly, and that also keeps you very cognitively flexible. As Derek, one of our really good instructors and coaches, likes to say, you’ve gotta be cognitively flexible.
Marcus: Cognitively flexible. I like that.
Brandon: Exactly. And one of the things that, unfortunately, will get in the way is when you get too tied to a goal or an end result, it can distract you from the, now it can have you in a place where you’re really trying to force the conversation in the direction that it doesn’t need to be going at this juncture. And so when it’s just I’m here to get smarter, and I’m here to show them that I understand what they see. And then we’re going to agree to talk again. It frees you up very much in the moment.
Marcus: No, I think as a dynamite. So, let’s talk this through in a hypothetical situation, you know, realistically. So I’m on the phone with someone, and let’s say that I’m trying to discuss how to sell a marketing strategy to them. And I think the basics are going to come down to, “Okay, what service am I providing? What does it cost, and then what are the guarantees?” So kind of take me through this. I assume the first goal, the first phone call, would be understanding their problems so that I could begin to think about what services to offer, right? What I’m performing?
Brandon: Yeah. I mean, the beginning stages– and we like to say that negotiation is a three phase process, and that first phase is very much focused on discovery.
Brandon: Very much so. Understanding their problems, understanding their challenges, their obstacles, you know, some of it is understanding their mindset. You might be dealing with someone that they don’t necessarily think in terms of challenges as much as they think of in terms of solutions. Right? And focusing on challenges may actually screw up their thought process a little bit, but once you start talking on the solution side– and it’s just wording. All words have some sort of emotional context. So how do you make sure that your phrases hit home in the most accurate way.
Marcus: I’m curious with your clients, one of the things you’ve talked a little bit about how business has changed over the past couple of years. And one of the things that I personally have perceived, at least with the prospects that I’m working with, is I feel like today as the world’s gotten more complex, more prospects are comfortable with hard questions. But not all of them are, and I’m curious what some of your techniques are when you’re trying to ask someone really good, hard questions about their challenges and they’re not necessarily willing to open up.
Brandon: Ah, yeah. I think that’s a great question. And yeah, it’s not so much that people are afraid to give you the tough answers, but sometimes it’s hard to get good answers to the tough questions. And really one of the ways that our thinking kind of has evolved, especially since the book is he gonna come out, is we’re using our questions much more to shape thinking. We’re using it to spark a thought process as opposed to getting information.
Marcus: Oh, interesting.
Brandon: And you’re familiar with the book, so this term is not going to be foreign to you. We have a tendency to use labels much more to gather information from people for two reasons. One, it makes the conversation just feel more natural. And then secondly, to your point from earlier about everyone getting dealt with in the same type of manner and you know the hard questions, people are used to seeing those; they know what those look like and you sound just like everybody else when you ask, “What keeps you up at night?”
Brandon: And so how do you start to sound different? And that’s a huge component of making headway. Just because you don’t sound like the last ten sales people they talked to, they’re probably willing to give you a little bit more time.
Marcus: Right, right. But it’s interesting to think about. What you’re saying is, it’s not about trying to get the tough answer, but just help them to begin to think about their challenges a bit differently. That’s big.
Brandon: Well, that’s exactly it, right? That’s exactly it. Helping them think about it from a different angle. From deep down that’s where we’re coming from when we want to explain things to people because we’re trying to help them think about it. But unfortunately your explanations can oftentimes can fall on deaf ears. There’s lots of studies out there that show you got to tell somebody something 19 times before they can actually hear it. So what’s the shortcut?! And it’s, “Can I spark a new train of thought, and what skills am I going to use to do that?”
Marcus: That way you don’t need to hear it; you figured it out yourself, which is of course how we all love to learn.
Brandon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. When people figure it out on their own, it causes more buy in, and there’s a snowball effect to having your customer realize things as opposed to trying to take your word for it.
Marcus: Right. So once you and I have kind of settled on, “Okay, here are your challenges, here are the solutions…” You know, there are a lot of us in this custom consulting world that, at some point, a number comes out, let’s say it’s $20,000, which is just not in anybody’s frame of reference. Should it be twice as much? Should it be half as much? What or where does price fit into this, and what does a good price negotiation look like?
Brandon: Yeah, that’s a great question. And we would contend, Black Swan Group, that if tactical empathy is implemented, oftentimes there’s no need for bargaining. And kind of to lead up/ add some more to your question there– Once you’ve identified the challenges, they’ve seen the loss, and there’s some “agreement” as to what the problems are and maybe there’s some solutions that we can come up with together. The thought is the next step is that we’ve got to talk about price. And really the next step would be how much money are you losing every day because you’re dealing with this problem? What happens if you do nothing? Because, in a lot of cases, at that frame of the conversation or that framing the negotiation, the status quo is the enemy, right?
Brandon: The counterpart is not your enemy. It’s the situation, and right now, it’s how do we fight against the status quo because they’ve been doing something one way and we want to get them to change their behavior. So again, we agree that this is loss, and now I’ve got to get you to understand that your current actions are causing that.
Brandon: And then the next step, we may get into price. Once people have come to those realizations, oftentimes it’ll be, “Let’s get the process started right now. I don’t want to screw around with the numbers.” When value exceeds the cost, the price longer becomes relevant. So once you’ve gone to that place– You’ve got somebody that’s looking to buy a Tesla or a nice Bentley; they want the solution that it’s going to bring them. But if you do have to get the price: number one, you always have to tell him how expensive it is first iff you’re going to lead with a number. Another option is to get a real good feel for what their ceiling or what their range is or potentially what they’ve spent on similar products in the past. That’s a great way to get into a numbers conversation without having to lead with a number yourself.
Marcus: Right, all that research in the front: understanding what they’ve done before. Absolutely. So for a lot of us, and I can totally picture this from an FBI negotiation from all the movies that I’ve seen, is the idea of guarantees. So you’re going, “I’m going to provide this for you; you’re going to pay me X. What’s the guarantee on this? Is it really going to work? Tell me how your strategies and techniques handle guarantees.
Brandon: Yeah, I think that’s another really good question. And the first… I guess my first thought, my first response, is what are you trying to use the guarantee for?
Marcus: Oh, that’s big. Yeah.
Brandon: And I’m a bit of a movie buff. You mentioned movies, and on that note, one of the things my father and his law enforcement buddies like to say about the movies on negotiation is there is one thing that they get right every single time. And that’s the equipment. The equipment the S.W.A.T. team uses: the guns, the black jackets, the throw phones, and the vehicles. All that stuff is always correct. But the negotiation part is made for TV stuff, right? It’s all about drama and isn’t anywhere close to what actually happens in real life.
Brandon: But, speaking of guarantees, a movie that comes to mind is Tommy Boy, right? Chris Farley, when he’s selling at the end, and he’s talking to a guy about his guarantees. Like, “Oh, guarantee makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside. They’ve got a guarantee on the box,” and he says, “I can take a dump in a box and write guarantee on it, and all you’d have is a guaranteed piece of sh*t.” That has always stuck with me as far as how I feel about guarantees, and so along those lines, right? If you’re going to use a guarantee to try to prove something to someone, then you’re off on the wrong foot.
Marcus: Oh, I think that’s a great point. It’s probably an opportunity that you need– If there’s a lot of concern about guarantee, you’re probably not ready for the close at that point; you need to take a step back.
Brandon: Yeah, that’s exactly it. You’re probably not ready for the close at that point if you feel like you’ve got to start throwing guarantees at people. You’re trying to prove your value, and when you prove your value, that’s when people start feeling like you’re trying to close them. People can feel when you’re trying to get him to say yes. They feel when you’re trying to close, and they feel when you trying to prove something that you know they haven’t bought into yet. So yeah, I think if you feel like you’ve got to make a guarantee, then you’ve probably got to take a couple steps back and there’s some discovery that you haven’t done yet. So I think, that’s a great point. But to the other part of your question, what if they ask you– and it doesn’t happen as often as we imagine, but occasionally– “What guarantees do I have? What can you guarantee me?” Those questions can come at you, and really the first thought is what are they really trying to tell you?
Brandon: If they’re asking you about guarantees, it’s because they’re worried about something.
Brandon: And so a great response to a question like that is to use a label, and you can just simply say, “It sounds like you’re worried about something.”
Brandon: Or even, “It sounds like you’ve got a reason for asking me that.”
Brandon: And the very least you’re going to open up the conversation. You’re not going to feel pinned against a wall. You’re not like, “Okay, well do I make a guarantee? What do I guarantee? How do I present the guarantee?” Now you’re having a whole new conversation because you used the label to dive deeper into what the actual concern was.
Marcus: Wow. It’s so funny you say that. I had a very realistic experience with that just a couple of weeks ago. We were talking to someone about SEO services, and of course to so many companies, SEO is on some levels that black magic of the internet. It’s like, “Well does it really work or not?” And they asked me that question: “What does your guarantee look like?” And then he actually volunteered, “Because, at the end of the day, I’m going to be reporting to my C-Suite here’s how much money I’m paying you guys for the service.” So to your point, we had a better conversation about how he’s going to reflect to the C-Suite, what exactly we’re doing.
Brandon: Yeah. And the other thing about that too, how hard is it to get to the C-Suite?That can be difficult trying to get to the decision makers and identified deal killers, as we talk about very often times. And in that case, the next question is how do I shape their thinking about it, “If the CEO asks you a question you can’t answer, how are we going to handle that?”
Brandon: And now you’ve got your champion thinking about whether or not they’re going to put you in the room with the CEO, and that’s how you start planting the thought in their head,
Marcus: Which of course is the goal anyway.
Brandon: Exactly right. How do you actually get to the DM?
Marcus: That’s right! So I got a couple of questions for you that I don’t think were in the book. I would think it’s sort of next level stuff, but the reality is negotiation is– you’ve got so many great strategies and tactics for when it’s one on one negotiation, but there are these other role players. And I’m just curious. I wish I would have had you with me a couple of weeks ago. I had a great negotiation with my counterpart and we were in super good shape, and then he’s like, “Okay, now I need to get legal involved.” It ended up going fine, but I was thinking to myself, “Boy, I wish Brandon or Chris would have been with me to help me negotiate,” because I’ve got good rapport with my counterpart, but now these red line contracts are coming back from legal. So how do you handle that when there’s another entity behind behind the scenes?
Brandon: That’s another great question. And speaking about legal, I’m glad you’re using that as kind of our framework for our example here. This just goes right towards implementation. And for us– This is how we do it as a company. We know that legal is going to be involved at some point, and we know that the lawyers are going to put together a contract that we cannot accept in its entirety.
Brandon: And so when someone wants to get legal involved, we switched right into implementation mode. So how do we handle changes in the contract? Or we might lead in with combinations, accusations, audit, and here’s my problem. But chances are that legal is going to create a contract that we’re going to want to make changes to, and it’s going to be changes you’re not going to like. What do we do when that comes up? What’s the best way to handle that? How should we do it without trying to make the process any more difficult? How do we handle this without making everybody bend over backwards?
Marcus: Well, I think what’s really cool, what you did there was you’re helping the prospect envision this future, but it’s a hypothetical future at this point. So they’re not emotionally invested in it.
Brandon: Well I think that they are and, to some degree, they’re not. It might not be necessarily emotionally invested in the future, but they are emotionally invested in the moment because they’re using legal to protect them.
Marcus: Oh, correct.
Brandon: You know, if I need to get legal involved, what are they really telling me? They’re telling me, “I don’t know if I fully trust you yet. I got this team in place to protect me in worst case scenario. And I need to make sure that I’ve put them between you and I before we can proceed.” And so how do you handle that? Legal is going to make things difficult for you; they’re protecting their client. So it’s not far fetched to talk about, when we trip, how do we make sure we can all stand up together.
Marcus: Right. That’s huge. One of the things on this implementation piece is actually one of the questions that I wondered. I’m curious if you know the answer to how the FBI does this. What implications are for the business world– I’m going to give you a movie example here and you might tell me that it’s totally, totally wrong, but this idea of “transfer of rapport.” And I wondered, were there times throughout your dad’s career where he needs a nap, so he’s going away for four hours or he’s relieved of duty. And this, I think, really gets into this implementation issue that you’re talking about; is how do we transfer rapport? Do you know how they do it in the FBI, and how do you advise your clients to do it the same or differently?
Brandon: Very good. So obviously Chris, Derek, Isaac, some of our other former crisis negotiators on the team would be able to speak to that more specifically because they’ve been through it, but the idea is very similar. If you’ve got a sales team passing on a deal to an implementation team, you’ve built a certain amount of rapport personally, and now you have to pass them on to somebody else who was essentially starting from zero and make it even worse. They may have such a strong rapport built with you that they’re like, “No, you can’t. No, there is no passing me on. You are my guy or my girl. You’re my person.” So how do you handle that?
Brandon: And that can be very tough. And some of that is letting them know that those things are coming at them early. Human beings in general, business, hostage negotiation, they appreciate someone who was up front with them. And so if there’s any change in the dynamic, any change in the path that we’re on, that as a salesperson you can help guide them through. The sooner you give him the heads up, the sooner you can start to manage the problem. When we start to lose rapport is if you run into an issue and it’s, as a customer, you think to yourself, “There’s no way you didn’t know this was going to happen, Mr. Salesman. You have 30 years of experience, and you let me walk right into this.” And so that’s the other problem I think we discount. Because when it hits, we know that the immediate issue is a factor and we discount the fact that they’re thinking about, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Now I trust you less because you let me walk into this train.”
Marcus: Right, and if it doesn’t go well– we call it the kickoff call– but the moment of implementation might be the most critical part in terms of the client’s like, “Okay, I trusted you. You’ve got the money. You’ve got the deposit. Now start to show me something.” You have to have that rapport locked down at that moment.
Brandon: Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly right. Rapport greases the skids for just about anything.
Marcus: Exactly. So a couple final questions. I know one of the things that you’ve talked about is that not all negotiations are created equal and neither are all negotiators. You’ve kind of identified the different types of negotiators. How many are there? How many different types of negotiators are there, and how do you describe them?
Brandon: So, yeah, and that’s a great question. And this is probably for me specifically one of my favorite parts of what we teach and what we instruct on is when we talk about dealing with different types of negotiators. So three types we discussed in the book are assertive, analyst, and accommodator. And the easiest way to look at them is just fight, flight, or make friends.
Brandon: When people are pinned down, they got skin in the game, they’re driven into a corner, and their default reaction kicks in, it’s going to be one of those three things. And so a couple of things about that. Number one: if you know that there are three different types of negotiators, you can bet that two out of three people you run into, chances are they’re going to be a different type of negotiator than you are, and that means that they’re going to approach the process very differently than you. An easy example, we were talking about common ground earlier. Accomodators do in fact like common ground. They love to build the relationship. They think of it as like growing a flower. You’ve got to plant it in the right soil, give it the right sunlight, and water it the right amount, and it grows and blossoms into this beautiful thing.
Brandon: Well, that’s the only one of our three types. The assertive and the analysts have no use for that. The analyst is very much emotions do not belong at the negotiation table. So a good relationship means that we are not in conflict: nothing more, nothing less. And then for your assertives, relationships are about respect. I don’t have to like you to do business with you, and I don’t need you to like me. As long as there’s a mutual respect there, then we can move things forward. So the accommodator can find themselves wasting and assertive’s or an analyst’s time by what they would “call beating around the bush” and focusing too much on the relationship. So it’s one thing to think about, but even more so, you can get more specific when you start thinking about fairness, right? We talk about the “F word” or the “F bomb” in negotiation. When you really start to analyze what people see as fair and then knowing that that’s going to change depending on what side of the table they’re sitting on.
Marcus: Oh, interesting. Right.
Brandon: And when you look directly at fairness, then it really starts to differentiate people because you and I look at the same situation and our view of fairness is very different. But we both happened to be analysts. So how do we manage that?
Marcus: And I’m guessing that the real challenge of what you’re going at is, once I recognize the three types of negotiators that I’m dealing with, I probably should definitely be altering my style depending on who I’m talking to.
Brandon: Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Once you identify who you’re dealing with and that’s going to inform. You’re making yourself smarter, and that’s very much going to inform your strategy moving forward.
Marcus: Outstanding. Another Brandon Voss specialty that I’ve heard described is the short game. What can you tell me about the short game?
Brandon: Yeah, the short game is– We take a lot of pride in that and it’s the easiest metaphor. It’s chipping and putting on a golf course.
Brandon: A really great comparison is everyone loves to hit the long ball, right? All the chicks dig the long ball, right? Everybody wants to hit it 300, 400 yards off the tee, but if you’re a real golfer, you know you’re earning your money chipping and putting.
Brandon: And it’s in that short game. It’s very similar in a negotiation context and really how we applied it in a couple of different ways. Number one: the point of the short game is for the other side to understand that they will never have a conversation with you this unproductive.
Marcus: Oh interesting. That’s huge.
Brandon: Exactly. At the very least, you know every time that I talked to Marcus, he’s going to be very upfront with me, and he’s never going to hold me on the phone for longer than 20 minutes. Every time he calls me I’m going to pick up because I know he’s not going to waste an hour of my time. So that’s one big one. The other one is you can’t discount your opportunities to influence and move the ball forward and in those short conversation. So you know, we’re talking about negotiator type, analysts are the type that they need time to process it. It’s just part of it. They cannot sit at a table and make a snap decision. It’s actually something that they hate more than anything else is to feel like they’ve made an informed decision. So short game, especially when an analyst is going to be important because you’re going to use those conversations can get them to think about stuff over the following week.
Marcus: Yeah, is this the point where we’re also asking them, “Hey, how much time do you think you need to review this?”
Brandon: And that’s another great time to ask that question. “What are next steps?” Great time to lay that out is during the short game. So we’re identifying next steps, we’re sending the right impression, we’re getting them to understand whenever we’re going to waste their time, and then we’re moving the ball forward and every single one of those conversations because we got two or three things we want them to think about before we get to the table. This is our opportunity to start that thought process.
Marcus: Outstanding. I love the idea of the short game. I don’t know, Brandon, if you’re familiar with it, but a couple of years ago there was a fellow, his website was the Dan Plan online, and he was trying to become a professional golfer by putting 10,000 hours toward it, and when he talked to a golf pro, their recommendation was to spend the first 2,500 hours learning to put.
Brandon: That’s it! That’s a little wax on, wax off. You gotta build the foundation first.
Marcus: Absolutely. Alright! Hey, we’ve been having a blast today with Brandon Voss from the Black Swan Group. We’ve talked about how you can take everything you’ve ever seen in a hostage negotiation and apply it to the business and sales worlds. We have had a lot of fun, sir. Which brings me to my favorite part of the program, which is the Marketing Minute. Are you ready?
Brandon: Let’s go. Let’s go; I’m ready, man.
Marcus: Okay. So we’re taking a look right now at your wrists. Do we see a smartwatch, a Timex, or a bare wrist
Brandon: Bare wrist.
Marcus: Alright. When you’re surfing the internet: ad blocker or no?
Brandon: Ad blocker.
Marcus: Probably should not be surprised from an intelligence expert! Inside those ear buds: is it a podcast, music, or audio books?
Brandon: Ooh, audio book or music.
Marcus: Alright. Outstanding. Your television viewing habits, sir: Are you a cord cutter or a cable-holic?
Brandon: Ooh, cable-holic during football season. Cord cutter during the rest of the year.
Marcus: I like that. You’re versatile. Alright. How about this one: Don Draper, Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs?
Brandon: Ooh, good question. You know, I gotta go with Elon, man.
Marcus: Alright, outstanding. And listen, here’s a bonus one. I don’t usually ask this one, but I have to ask it because of who you and your father are. Are you ready for this one?
Brandon: Let’s go. Yeah!
Marcus: Are we going Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, or John Wick?
Brandon: Ooh, John Wick all day!
Marcus: Oh, yes. Yes, sir, Mister Wick. I love it! Hey, Brandon, this has been a lot of fun. What is the best way for people to learn more about you and your friends at the Black Swan Group?
Brandon: Yeah. Thanks for asking, Marcus, and I had a great time today. Our website: blackswanltd.com. But even more so to really, really you stay on top of what we’re doing is through our newsletter, and it comes out every Tuesday. Hits your inbox about by 9:00 AM your local time. You can sign up for that on our website, or you can sign up through your phone. If you text the words “FBI empathy,” and technically that’s all one word and all capital letters (FBIEMPATHY), to the number 22828, you can be prompted to sign up for the newsletter. All our new products, the new live events we’re doing, anything like that, that all comes out in our newsletter before it hits anything else.
Marcus: Outstanding. Hey Brandon, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you so much for joining us today. For everyone here at The Revenue Stream, I’m Marcus Grimm. To learn more about us go to webtalentmarketing.com.