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The Most Beautiful Word You’re Ever Going To Hear In Sales: ‘No’

The best way to get someone to say “yes” to you is to get them to first say “no.” Sounds completely bizarre and counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But it works.


The best way to get someone to say “yes” to you is to get them to first say “no.”

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That’s what Chris Voss says. And I’m inclined to believe him, because as a former FBI head hostage crisis negotiator, he’s had plenty of experience with getting people to lay down their arms and release hostages.

In his new book, “Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” he lays out the case about why hearing “yes” in any negotiation — from getting your kids to bed on time to selling something — should always begin with “no.”

The reason is based in human experience, Voss says. When someone approaches another person with a request, there’s an innate human need to remain in control. Humans, after all, says Voss, want a feeling of safety and control in their lives. One way to remain in “control,” is to say “no” to a request. Sometimes, even without knowing, it’s done reflexively. And once it’s out of their system, and they feel in control and secure, they then open to the possibility of saying “yes.”


Sounds completely bizarre and counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But, it works. I’ve tried this lately in small daily interactions with people just to try it out.

One way to get people to eventually say “yes” is to mirror. The concept of mirroring someone’s behavior has been known for quite some time and it’s not terribly difficult to do.

Try this out today: Say the last two to three words that someone says to you, perhaps in a question form or say three words that sum up that person’s sentiment.


For example:

Person: “I’ve had a really hard day.”

You: “Really hard day?”

That’s it. You’ve just mirrored. Pat yourself on the back.

This is a Jedi mind trick at its finest. The interaction above says to that other person, “Hey, they’re listening to me. They get it.” It tells that person that you’re engaged with them, that you’re empathetic. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of a negotiation, but if you are getting ready to negotiate with that person, mirroring kicks it all off.


But let me say this, and Voss points this out in his book: Don’t be phony. Don’t “act” like you’re interested. Obviously, you’re in this business to help people, so you are already predisposed to caring about the people who come into the store.

So, go ahead and try this today. Start simple. (Don’t try negotiating nuclear arms treaties just yet.)  

Start any interaction with mirroring and when a customer or someone else in your life says “no,” be happy, because you’re getting closer to them saying “yes.”



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