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
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
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
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.
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.