Start With No: Why “No” Is A Powerful Tool When Negotiating

When you think about negotiating, you probably immediately think that the goal is getting what you want, getting the other person to say “yes” to your proposal — whether that’s a discount on a pair of scuffed shoes in a boutique, a lower payment for your internet bill, or a better rate with a vendor for your business.

But if I told you there is sometimes more power in “no” than in “yes” when it comes to negotiating.

Crazy?  Hear me out.

The word “no” doesn’t have to be a stop sign in a negotiation — unless you let it. Negotiating is all about gathering information, and saying or hearing “no” can be a font of valuable information if you know how to use it!

I’ve put together a collection of Negotiating Terms & Pricing Scripts that you can click here and download to have with you for your next negotiations, and in the meantime, read on to learn five times you want to hear no in a negotiation.

Why do you want them to say no?

The word “no” has power.  In fact, many times people will say no in a negotiation because doing so makes them feel safe and in control.  

So rather than seeing “no” as a stop sign, you can use it to your advantage. If you give the other person an opportunity to say no at the beginning of the conversation, you’re letting them feel like they are making the decisions and driving the conversation.

It actually starts the conversation and gives them the safety and comfort they need to get to a real “yes.”  In fact, sometimes the only way to get the other person to truly listen to you is to let them get that initial “no” out of their system!

“Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution that you want is their own idea” – Chris Voss

So here are some ways to get “no” into the conversation in order to move forward and get the real issues out on the table.

1. Decode what “no” really means.

Let’s say you are on a sales call with a potential customer.  You reach the pitch and mention the price, and they immediately say something like, “I can’t afford that right now,” effectively saying “no” to your proposal.

What do you do?

If you’re a savvy negotiator, you know that “no” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it.

We are so scared to hear “no,” and yet it rarely means “I have considered all of the facts and made my final decision.” In fact, it’s more likely that it just means “I am not ready to agree yet.”
Other things “no” can mean:

-You are making me feel uncomfortable.

-I do not understand.

-I want something else.

-I need more information.

-I don’t see the value for me.

People say “no” first to protect themselves, they relax, and then feel more comfortable listening to what you have to say.  So the key is for you to react calmly and keep the conversation going.  

When you give people permission to say “no” to your ideas, emotions calm, the effectiveness of decisions go up, and the other party can really look at your proposal.

So aftering being told “no”, calmly ask questions like:

– “What about this doesn’t work for you?”

– “What would you need to make it work?”

– “It seems like there is something here that bothers you… ”

And then really listen to what they have to say. Often, you will hear the information you need to get them to a real yes.

2. Get the other person to say “no”

Obviously, you don’t want them to say “no” to what you want — but there is power in getting the other person to say no to a different question.  It makes them feel comfortable and in control.

-Every 'no' gets me closer to a 'yes'.-

Imagine you are negotiating with a potential customer. You want them to sign a 6-month deal to work with you.  You might offer a 12-month program that you already know will be outside their comfort zone. When they say no to that offer, you can counter with the 6-month offer, which suddenly looks much more attractive.

Expert negotiators know that people are more satisfied with the outcome of a negotiation when there is some back and forth.  For example, say you are going to buy a home and the asking price is $500,000. You make an offer of $425,000.

If the seller accepts immediately, you will likely wonder if you could have gotten a better deal if you had offered even lower! But if the seller counters with $440k, and the two of you eventually settle on $435k, experts suggest you will actually be more satisfied with the outcome than if there had been no back and forth negotiations — even though you ended up paying more.

So getting the other person to say no to one offer can help ensure that they will be more satisfied with another.

3. Ask the other person what they don’t want.

The majority of negotiation is about gathering information; knowing what the other person wants is one thing, but knowing what they don’t want is an equally powerful piece of information.

If you go into a negotiation with your internet service provider, for example, you know that they want to be able to charge as much for their service as possible; but if you also know that they don’t want to lose you as a customer, that is a powerful bargaining chip.

Asking right out what the other person doesn’t want also has the benefit of making them feel heard and understood. Remember, the goal of negotiating isn’t just to “win,” it’s to come up with a win/win solution so that all parties are happy.

4. Entice the other person to explain or correct you

Another interesting strategy to try is to say something that you know to be wrong or false. This forces the other party to say “no,” but then allows you to ask for more information.

As I said above, negotiating is all about information, and the more information you have, the better.

Let’s say a customer calls you and wants to negotiate their rate. You could say, “You must have found someone else who can provide this product/service at a better rate,” (when you know they haven’t). When they admit that no, they haven’t found a better rate, you can ask for more information and learn that they’ve shopped around and found you still have the best rates and they were just hoping for a better deal.

5. Use the “no, but…” strategy.

Answering a request with “No, but…” is a good way to make a counter-offer that can get you closer to a win/win situation.

In the case of the customer who asks for a discount, you might say, “No, I can’t offer you a reduced rate, but I can split it up into two payments…” or whatever terms would be agreeable to you.

A variation on that is the no… but if… scenario.  As in: “No, I can’t reduce my price, but if you were willing to commit to a longer contract, I could offer you Net 30.”

This puts you in a strong position from a negotiating standpoint, allowing you to stand your ground on your non-negotiables, but allows you to also offer up an alternative that might be a win for the other person.

As you can see, hearing “no” in a negotiation shouldn’t ever be the end of the conversation! When used correctly, no is a tool that can help you gather more information and negotiate from a stronger position.

To try using “no” as a tool in your next negotiation, download my free scripts. Print them out and put them where you can easily refer to them the next time you need to negotiate, and see how getting to “no” is often the best path to “yes.”

Don’t forget to click here to download your Negotiating Terms & Pricing Scripts to give you the best possible starting point for getting to a “yes” in your next negotiations.

This is just one of the resources in the Negotiation Guide we’re putting together exclusively for Business Class members that will share everything I have learned about negotiation running multiple seven-figure businesses over the years. If you’re interested in improving your negotiating skills (not to mention more than 25 other business skills!) click here to learn more about Business Class and get on the waiting list.

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