Chris Voss Transcript

Chris Voss is the CEO of the Black Swan Group and the author of Never Split the Difference; Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on it. He started out as an FBI agent, became an FBI hostage negotiator, and then an FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator. After leaving the FBI program, Chris started teaching business negotiation in a couple of business programs in George Town and USC University of Southern California. He also wrote his first book, Never Split the Difference, which has received over 20,000 reviews on Amazon, which reflect its success.  

How Chris became a hostage negotiator

For Chris, this completely fell out of the sky, just like most cool things in life. Initially, Chris wanted to be a Corp, but he got interested in federal law enforcement at a time when the FBI was hiring, and he was put in a SWAT team, FBI Pittsburgh. He likes crisis response, and the main thing about it is that you must figure out what is going on and make a decision. On the SWAT team, Chris tried out the FBI’s agent version of the Navy SEAL and re-injured his knee. They had negotiators, but he thought he could also do it, just talking to terrorists, but he found out that it was way more in-depth. The application of intelligence, which he didn’t realize at the time, that it was what they were doing.

What A Hostage Negotiator does and how they Are trained

Being taught to negotiate with terrorists is an intense job, and you must be at your highest level of preparation. A hostage negotiator is confronted with either a contained situation or an uncontained situation. In a contained situation such as bad guys in a bank, the hostage negotiator is the ultimate cold calling salesman who must use emotional intelligence before leverage to succeed. Uncontained situations, on the other hand, such as kidnapping, are a buy-side, not a sale side. The hostage negotiator is buying, and for Chris, this was the hardest part for him to wrap his mind around initially. He was horrified when he realized that it was a commodity of exchange with human beings. However, this is the key to any negotiations, and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it, it matters what they feel about it.

Hostage negotiator cold call and how it works

A hostage negotiation cold call should be done the same way a good business cold call is done. So, when the terrorists pick up the phone, you should start by introducing yourself because to get a relationship established with people, you don’t need to know their name, they need to know your name. This is how most cold callers do business today, and not to be turned off, you should add something like “Hi, I’m Chris and I’m here to talk to you about coming out” or “Hi I’m Chris, are you okay” which is great for hostage negotiations. Most terrorists know when the hostage negotiator is calling, and despite the circumstance, they will always answer the phone because they want to see if there is a way out. Hostage negotiations are successful 93% of the time, and this means only 7% of them are not coming out. You must recognize this in the first few minutes, and it is the same in business. Do your due diligence and eliminate the conversations with people who are not going to do business with you.      

Techniques on how to pull people into a negotiation table

Most of us think that we are in a negotiation when we start speaking specific terms of exchange or discussing money. However, an exchange conversation begins when you start talking about time, and when the words “I need” or “I want” are in your head or closing your lips, you are pulling people to a negotiation table. So, if you are gathering information or trying to create a relationship of influence, then you are already in a negotiation. The most dangerous negotiation is the one where you don’t know your rent.

What Leaders are seeking help for in negotiation From Chris

Leaders, specifically the top performers, are going to Chris for coaching and everything. Chris and his team have a small clientele that they are coaching directly, and they come to them on specific deals. Most often, they find that negotiation is a perishable skill, so they basically sign up for routine coaching to keep their skill level high. Chris’s team does everything, from insurance, settlement sales, mergers and acquisition, internal problems, salary negotiations, and job negotiations. However, they don’t divorce negotiations because SWAT people are already engaged. So, if you’ve kicked your lawyer into gear, they can’t coach you in that negotiation. 

Emotional intelligence and its’ role in the negotiation

Emotional intelligence is a deal-making accelerator. Emotional intelligence accelerates deal timelines, and lack of it lengthens them. Chris shares that initial deals are like developing rapport, an understanding of the other side, and a demonstration of that understanding. Once this is done in the first deal, then every deal afterward accelerates. This is how emotional intelligence accelerates your deal-making ability. However, when negotiating, call out the negatives in advance. Chris has found that accusations audit is the single most powerful strategy that unwinds negotiation faster than anything else because there’s a composition of the littlest circuitry in the brain. The composition is a layman’s explanation, but Chris’s findings indicate that it works.

Reading the room and paying attention as a leader

Gathering data with your eyes can give you a lot of good and accurate information. The look on somebody’s face reflects what is going on in their brain. It is not what you would like to have to go on in their brain but what is going on in the brain. If you want to read the look on somebody’s face, always read genuinely what you can see in their facial expressions and body language. See, pay attention, adapt to what the Read is, and say it as an accusation, an observation, and with an understanding tone of voice. Just like you read the sport you like when it is live, you have to read what is actually going on and compare it to what you have planned for and then adapt your plan at the moment.  

How much is being you versus becoming something before negotiation

Chris advises that you should never take advice from somebody that you wouldn’t trade places. You should also not take direction from somebody who hasn’t been where you’re going.  Be yourself, and no matter which type you are, fight, flight, or make friends, each brings something to the table during negotiations. Everyone has a natural attribute that is a great advantage in negotiations, and Chris would coach anyone to keep that and look for complementary attributes from the other side. For instance, the fight-type person is naturally aggressive and assertive, and the accommodator that makes friends is very likable. You can be assertive and likable simultaneously. Taking who you’re and adding what is on the other side to complement your skills will enhance long-term successful relationships.

In wrapping up …

Here are Chris’s top three favorite techniques that you can implement as a leader in everyday negotiation. First, read the other person’s emotions and hang a label on it. You will not always be correct, but the greatest thing about being inaccurate is that you get a great correction. Just know how to call it out in a way that will connect with the other person and be willing to learn. Second, Understand the circumstances before you walk in the door.  Always take a step back from any given conversation to make an emotional intelligence prediction on what is going on, and then lead with that. Thirdly, hear the other side out. You will get several deals that will make themselves if you thoroughly hear the other side out. The way you get good at it is by practicing it on a regular basis.

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