The Other Side Of Negotiation: Persuasion

Persuasion is the other side of negotiation
Persuasion is the other side of negotiation

The last time that I went into an auto dealership to buy a car, I was smart enough to keep my eyes open. Because I realized that I was entering into a negotiating “combat zone”, I wanted to see what the dealer would do to prepare me for the inevitable pricing discussions that we were going to be having. Although I came ready to negotiate, what I discovered is that even before we began to talk, the dealer was trying to persuade me to buy a car there. Suddenly the light turned on for me – there’s a whole dimensional to this negotiating stuff that I had not realized was there…

The ultimate goal of any negotiation is to convince the other side to do what you want them to do: sell you the car, buy your house, give you a job, sign the contract, etc. We’ve spent some time talking about what I like to call “classical negotiating”. This includes preparing to negotiate, planning on what you are going to compromise on, and even how to deal with demands and deadlines. Now it’s time to talk about the other side of the coin: persuasion.

Persuasion is one of those words that we all know, but would be hard pressed to define. To put it simply, persuasion is a form of social influence in which one party guides another party to a conclusion or action. This is accomplished by appealing to the other party’s needs and wants instead of forcing them to do something. If taken too far, then persuasion can turn into manipulation where only one party benefits from the interaction.

Why take the time to talk about persuasion when we really should be talking about negotiation? Simple, the two forms of communication are different sides to the same coin. I like to think about persuasion as being the unspoken part of negotiation. In a perfect world, if you could persuade the other side to sell you the car, buy your house, sign the contract, then that would be all that was needed. However, often times persuasion is not enough, and that’s when negotiation comes in to play. No matter how things turn out, persuasion has a role to play before, during, and after a negotiation.

When communicating with the other side, there are two basic forms of persuasion that can be used: logical and emotional. It’s important to realize that both forms are often used together – this is not an either or situation. The logical appeal attempts to use facts, logic, and reason to convince the other party to agree to take some action. The emotional appeal attempts to capture the other side’s imagination, their heart, or simply to appeal to their belief system to achieve the same thing.

Back to that car dealer. The walls of the dealership were covered with facts & stats about the safety and gas mileage of the cars that I was looking at (logical). They had pictures up around the place of past customers with little hand written notes that thanked the dealership for their service and support (emotional/social). Finally, when I sat down with the salesman to talk about pricing, I couldn’t help but notice the oversized picture of his wife and children that was prominently displayed on his desk (emotional). Next time you get ready to negotiate, don’t forget to prepare for the other 50% of your task – persuasion!

Do you use persuasion as a part of your negotiations? Have you ever felt as though the other side was using it on you? Have you ever been manipulated by someone during a negotiation? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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8 thoughts on “The Other Side Of Negotiation: Persuasion”

  1. There is no persuasion in a sales negotiation only manipulation, any sales person that thinks he is a persuader needs to find a new job. We ask questions that we know the answers too, we present facts that the customer wants to hear and we use emotiional questions to “sizzle” the customer. The customer will use emotional blackmail and counter logic statments to manipulate the sales person. The word has a bad reputation but once you get beyond the social stigma and acknowledge the reality the process becomes easier.

    • Barry: thanks for taking the time to comment, but I completely disagree with you. I think that our disagreement is more than just words – it’s how we look at the profession of sales. I look at it as an art form – a way to solve people’s problems and make money at the same time. The skills of negotiation operate at a high level – you plan, you execute, you react. The skills of persuasion are how you do the 1,000 “little things” to keep the process moving along in the direction that you want it to go. Yes, this might mean asking a question to trigger an emotional response at just the right time, but that’s part of the sales negotiator’s skill. Manipulation, in my opinion, is much more heavy-handed – you are not steering the customer, you are dragging them. In the end, the difference is that a customer that you’ve persuaded will be eager to buy from you again, one that you’ve manipulated will probably never do business with you again.

  2. Very good article. I absolutely agree with the points. Would like to add:

    Don’t underestimate the value of the subtle persuasion methods, like the hand-written notes from past customers, picture of family, etc. These go a long way in leaving a lasting impression, specially if the customer has come in with the mentality of shopping around for prices and if you don’t have an exclusive product.

    Best Regards,

    • Indy: I agree with you 100%. The key word here is “subtle”. Persuasion is made up of the 1,000’s of small things that you do to steer the customer towards the outcome that you want. Playing chess looks easy in comparison to the sales art of persuasion…!

  3. Isn’t Persuasion the tactic that the auto guys used to sell SUV’s.

    Safety and the Ability to go anywhere.

    This despite the safety record makes SUV’s one of the worst vehicles to be in and the ability to go anywhere is questionable once one leaves the road.

    • Ted: as always, there are two sides to every coin. If you’ve been reading the papers lately, there’s been a number of articles talking about how dangerous it is to be in an accident if you are driving one of those tiny fuel efficient cars (especially if you run into one of those SUVs). Appealing to someone’s desire to “get away from it all” would be an effective use of persuasion if you were selling SUVs, I’m guessing gas mileage would not!

  4. Hi All,

    Thought provoking article! i feel persuasion is the art of making the other guy agree with you/see in your direction. Now, in sales persuasion is sometimes good n sometimes bad. Understanding the customers’ need and pursuing him to use our product – We know that our product solves their need and we are trying to persuade him to have trust on our words/believe us that its true.
    Non tangible means to make the customer believe that we(sales guys) are as human as the customers are – keeping kids pics, customers testimonials etc are a way to convey that we aren’t really negotiating.
    Welcome comments..

    • Perl: good point! A key part of persuasion is helping your customer to “fill in the blanks” when it comes to making a decision. If you can nudge them in the direction that you’d like them to go, then you are doing a good job of using this powerful tool. Taking the time to show them that you really are a human being can often pay off in big rewards later on…!


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