It’s a very common misconception among even experienced professionals that negotiation is essentially a game of bargaining. This could not be farther from the truth. A great resource on how to negotiate better and get the best deal is “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss und Tahl Raz. Chris used to be a chief hostage negotiator at FBI and really knows a thing or two about the topic.
According to Chris, the most important skill you have to learn and do well when negotiating any deal is to make sure you really listen to your counterpart. To be able to figure out the best deal possible for you and the other side you first need to really find out what the other side needs to get out of the negotiation. Sometimes it’s what they say it is but sometimes it’s something different you need find out by listening closely between the lines.
By really understanding what the other party needs gives you invaluable information about their constraints and pressures which can help you to shape the deal in such a way that you get what you want.
Chris, as a chief hostage negotiator, had a team of other professional negotiators to listen in on the calls with the hostage takers. This allowed them to work as a team and each focus and listen very closely on a different aspect of the conversation.
If you don’t have a team of pros listening on a phone call you need to get creative. One very successful tactic is to have a conversation with your counterpart while making sure you have the ability to stall and digest the conversation you just had. You can always say you need to run this by your boss/spouse/parents before making a final decision. To take this to the next level, you should record the call so that you can objectively listen to the recording while concentrating on different aspects of the conversation, just like as if you had a team of pros listening in on the conversation!
CallTap is a great app for recording negotiation calls on your iPhone. Using CallTap you can easily record phone calls and then go back to them. Either listen inside the app itself or export them to various other services like DropBox or Google Drive or just email the recording to yourself or an associate to help you with listening closely and figuring out the unspoken constraints and needs of the other party.