Business Negotiation: Learning To Say ‘No’

I used to say Yes. A lot. If you grew up as Catholic, Irish, and with an easy-going nature, then maybe you’re the same. Find yourself saying Yes more than you’d like.I didn’t see this trait until I moved into contract negotiations. I grew up fast in that six months. My opposite team members felt I was a soft touch and tried to push me into saying Yes. At first, it worked. Then I wised up.

Business Negotiation Tactics: Learn To Say No

Roger Fisher best-selling business book on successful negotiations, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In focused on how to gain mutual agreement between parties without confrontations. Its premise was that both parties want to get to “Yes.” You’ve read hundreds of article along the same lines. But not everyone is into win-win. Today, we’re going to look at getting to No.

Here are nine ways you can improve your negotiation tactics especially when dealing with pushy types who need an answer, in a hurry and now. Let’s start at the top.

  1. Deflect the target – the first trick is to side-step the answer. Instead of giving an answer then and there (which you may later regret), kick it into touch. For example, ‘that’s a good idea, can you send me more information on those new business processes and then I can give you a better answer’. If they persist, remind them that the benefit is more for them as they get a more rounded answer if they wait just a little bit. Hard to argue with that and if they do…
  2. Get Real Consensus – if you’re getting bullied or steam-rolled into a decision, ask the person if they’ve run this by the boss. Most don’t. They want to generate support with you first and then use this to push others into agreeing  ‘Well, Ivan said Yes, why don’t you agree?.’ Careful here. Don’t let another person use your ‘agreement’ to push something through.
  3. Request Evidence – if they rush you into an agreement, you can stall them by asking for more evidence. What I mean here is information such as statistics that supports their claim, market research, feedback, weekly numbers, and other information that helps you make a more accurate decision.
  4. Agree to a point – agree with the person that their argument, request, proposal makes sense… but only to a point. Postpone making any decision until you’ve had time to consider it. Instead of giving a flat refusal (which can inflame or embarrass the requester), say you’ll give it some thought. But, remember to get back to them. Don’t use this as an excuse to hide. That’s just being weak.
  5. Deadline – ask for a firm deadline by when the decision needs to be made, for example, when defining  a set of business requirements. That may but you more time to consider the request. You’re aim is not to avoid saying Yes or No, but to give yourself more breathing space.
  6. Urgency – ask for confirmation regarding the level of urgency. ‘When must you have this by?’ if they don’t know, then ask them to work on a date.
  7. Ownership – ask for clarification regarding the final decision-maker, e.g. if this is part of developing a business proposal or executing a marketing plan. ‘Who needs this information?’ If they don’t share this (or fudge it) press them.
  8. Impact – ask for details on the likely impact this decision may have. Again, put the pressure back on the requester by asking for more information and more clarification.
  9. Practice saying No – this is the final, and most, effective tactic. Find small ways to learn to say no more often. But, here’s a tip. Don’t justify why you’re saying No. if you do that, you have to defend your decision, which can make things worse.
  10. A bonus suggestion! If you’re getting ganged up on in a meeting (i.e. ambushed) then identify who’s the leader of this group (it’s often not that obvious) and work directly with them. Rather than give an answer, flood them with questions,for example, how the business process will be tested for accuracy.

This last point requires practice and a small drop of courage.

Blitz them with rapid fire questions and then drill down into the details, sources and accuracy of the data. Once again, your aim is to put them on the backfoot. Don’t drive them into a corner but give some wiggle room so they can leave the scene with some dignity. You also don’t want to mock or make them look foolish. That creates another set of problems.

These nine ways (plus one) will help you handle pushy people and slow down the decision making process. What I wanted to do here is show you how to buy yourself more time so that others don’t push you into saying Yes and agreeing to things you hadn’t thought through. Watch how others do it.

Now, it’s your turn.

What advice can you give me to say No more often. I’m learning too!

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