Critical Negotiations Techniques: Training Intended for the Intelligence Community Improves Business Negotiations

Critical Negotiations Techniques Training Intended for the Intelligence Community Improves Business Negotiations


How can sales people get into the heads of customers or prospects with especially difficult personalities? Is a prospect always stalling when they say, "I'd like to think about it"? Wouldn't sales be much easier if one knew how the prospect makes a decision? When it comes to understanding the negotiations techniques psyche of people you must negotiate with, and you only have one or two meetings to get it accomplished, nothing beats skills well known to government intelligence officers; how to tease the personal motivations from unwitting or unwilling subjects in a simple and casual conversation.

There are two skills involved: conversational tactics called "elicitation," and psychological profiling using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.) Elicitation is the practice of using applied psychology in casual negotiations techniques to root out information about people's lives and work. Information they would not usually express if asked as a direct question. Instead of the service ceiling of a proposed jet fighter, however, in the business world the golden nuggets are usually, what is the budget, who really makes the decision, when is your deadline, what color is your new product and so forth.

The MBTI was originated in World War II as a way of assigning people with the most appropriate personality traits to the most appropriate factory jobs. Since the 1940's over 40 million MBTI interviews have been conducted around the world resulting in the quickest and most accurate indicator of personality preferences available to a non-psychologist. The twist is that instead of a company's future negotiations techniques, the combination of elicitation and MBTI preferences results in immediate indicators of how the subject prefers to take in information, and how they organize their lives and how they make decisions.

Does it take three months at CIA's Virginia "farm" to learn enough to apply these negotiations techniques? For business use, two days in a classroom, with some field practice normally does it.

First come the principles and negotiations techniques of a conversation, then the elicitation. It goes something like this: Every person has some kind of "push to talk" button, a stimulus that gets them to offer additional information about themselves or their work. For example, (and you will notice this in your next conversation) some people instinctively correct others on every little fact.

Some others are driven by the need to teach, and continue offering more information until they're sure you understand and appreciate their favorite subject. The sooner an elicitor can detect one of the seven or eight "talk buttons," the quicker they can use elicitation to exploit it. The other party becomes much more relaxed as the negotiations techniques goes on, rather than feeling they must put up defenses.

Next is the MBTI. It uses four "continuums" to scale whether a person is, for example, an Introvert or an Extrovert, and how intensely they feel these preferences. It is important to note that in Myers-Briggs terms Introvert and Extrovert mean how a person re-energizes and rejuvenates themselves mentally. Do they find a quiet corner with a book, or relax at a busy bar surrounded by chattering people? Each preference has massive negotiations techniques on decision making or acceptance of advice and suggestions.

Given some clues as to what to look for and how to get people to give you those clues, the class then goes out for an evening exercise to engage a total stranger in a negotiations techniques and report back the next day with details of the person they met, and what the subject's MBTI preferences might be. Such sessions are best led by a psychologist who specializes in remote profiling- understanding the psyche of people you wouldn't ask to fill out a questionnaire. The real life examples open discussion of the sales group's most difficult customers or coworkers, and better ways of negotiating with them.

It is about how the bulb lights up. Most sales people can remember being taught to "trial close" the prospect several times during their presentation. Unfortunately, many executive prospects are Myers-Briggs "Introverts" for whom decision making is a very private affair. Being pushed for a decision or even a hint of negotiations techniques, will make the executive feel more and more uncomfortable, regardless of how the positively the proposed deal strikes him. While Introverts are in the minority of the general population, they occur in a disproportionately high number of high ranking executives.

Thus, the sales person who can't distinguish "I'd like to think about it" as a stall, or a genuine plea for time to come around to their way of thinking, is going to drive away perhaps a quarter of their highest ranking prospects. Worse yet, not knowing their own negotiations techniques make sales people easy information targets, ripe for exploitation.