Why Yes Rarely Signals Agreement

Most people naturally assume that the objective of any negotiation is

getting a yes from the person on the other side of the table. But does

a yes actually result in a successful negotiation?

Below are four common scenarios where yes may come up. Though I

don’t employ or condone these methods, many people use them to

get a yes. Unfortunately, they are rarely effective in creating lasting

agreements. Let’s explore them as well as their pitfalls:

1. Employing yes momentum selling: In this tactic, the “seller”

creates little yeses to get to the big one. For example, let’s say I

want to buy a new car. I’m with the salesperson. During the

conversation, he or she keeps repeating my name, “Allan,

right? or “You’re looking for a blue SUV. Is that correct, Allan?”

“Allan, would you be interested in one of the cars on sale

today?” He or she is trying to get me to say yes. The pressure

starts building with every inquiry and each time I say yes.

This type of selling can occur anywhere, including a situation

that I witnessed in church. A missionary stood before the

congregation, hoping to raise money for a good cause. He

asked those who wanted to support and pray for the mission to

raise their hands. A number of people did so. He then asked if

they were willing to support the mission financially. Although the

missionary didn’t realize how his query might be received, this

scenario is a good example of yes momentum selling.

This strategy rarely succeeds. Often, it only leads to distrust

and defensiveness.

2. Asking leading questions: We’ve all experienced it. You

receive a phone call or attend a seminar. The caller or speaker

opens with “Do you want a better job? Do you want to make

more money? Do you wish life could be easier? Are you looking

for ways to save money and be more successful?” These are

typical leading questions, designed to appeal to your emotions

and elicit an affirmative response. Once they’ve got you hooked,

they corner you with “Great! For just four monthly

payments of $999 each, we’ll teach how to make more money

and get the things you really want out of life!” Quickly giving the

speaker a firm “no” only encourages them to push their pitch.

You become annoyed, turned off and resolve never to trust this

person again.

Although the seller seems to be tapping into the buyer’s pain

points, he’s merely coming at it from his own viewpoint. A better

approach is to ask authentic questions rather than leading ones

like “What do you want or need? How do you want to get it

fulfilled? When do you want it?”

Lead with what your opponent wants/needs. Then deliver on

how and when they want to receive it. Do so and you’ll come

out on top in negotiations.

3. Leveraging a Conditional Yes: You’re eyeing a product. The

salesperson asks, “Are you interested in this product?” You

answer in the affirmative. “Great! How many would you like?”

responds the salesperson. This response indicates that the

salesperson believes the transaction is a done deal. He or she

is giddy with anticipation.

But wait! You come back with, “Are you willing to include a free

year of service?” You may even slowly turn towards the door,

implying through your body language that you’re ready to walk

if you don’t get what you want. Why? Because the salesperson

has already shown their hand - the desire to close the deal.

Although the above example is a basic conditional yes, there

are scenarios where it plays out in a more sophisticated

manner. Here, you don’t just agree to the sale. Instead, when

the salesperson asks, “Are you interested in this product?” You

respond, “Yes, if you’ll include the software and a year of

service in that price.” or “That includes the software programs

and a year of service, right?” Your response shows shown the

salesperson that you expect those things in order to finalize the

deal. He or she may feel cornered, reluctantly compromising on

the price, agreeing to alter the terms of the contract or throwing

in added features to ensure you don’t walk away.

Unlike the salesperson in this scenario, avoid rushing to yes too

quickly. Otherwise, you’ll find that your counterpart has put

conditions around it.

4. Relying on the Higher Power Yes: This yes is grounded in the

opponent’s desire to preserve the relationship, and relies on

getting to yes faster. Let’s revisit the car dealership scenario.

You’re a car salesman, and a potential buyer walks into the

showroom. You see dollar signs and a quick sale. You sidled

up to the prospect and ask if there’s a particular car he’s

interested in. The prospect ignores you. Then he loudly says,

“Geez, what does a guy have to do to buy a car here???!!!”

You’re stunned. Your supervisor overhears the commotion and

quickly introduces himself as the manager. Alternatively the

prospect may ask you a confounding question, or one that you

may not be able to answer, such as “If I were to purchase a

fleet of cars, are you the one that can make that decision?” If

your answer is “No”, then the prospect will request to speak to

your manager.

The prospective buyer has just out-maneuvered you with the

higher power yes. He doesn’t want to negotiate from the bottom

up. Nor does he want to risk the manager rejecting his

negotiation requests by using the sales person as a messenger

or “go between” to a higher power behind closed doors. He

wants to go right to the top decision maker, face-to- face, to get

to the yes faster.

Although it may work occasionally, this yes is too easy to

circumvent and could work against the prospective buyer. What

if the manager isn’t even present that day or too busy to

respond to this tactic? What if the dealership has seen this trick


What’s more, the dealership might even start the negotiation

price higher in anticipation of this higher power yes approach.

The buyer also just lost the allegiance of the salesman, since

he bypassed him. In the future, this salesperson may even

become a blocker against this buyer. If, instead, the buyer was

respectful to the salesperson, the salesperson may have worked

that much harder to ensure that the buyer left a happy

customer and that the deal went through.

Your Turn…

Most believe that “yes” is the primary objective in negotiations. But as

we’ve read above, the traditional strategies used to get that yes are

rarely effective. Those that do garner one often come with a price tag.

Relay your best, funniest, worst, or most triumphant story of a yes

negotiation. We’ll pick our favorite, and the winner will be eligible for a

complimentary 1-hour coaching session with me.

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