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Negotiation Skills 101: Learn the Art of Staying Silent

I want to tell you a story about how one of my clients doubled her revenue on a single sale, without saying a word. Then I’ll share how you, too, can use her no-fail technique, which has helped me consistently negotiate higher sales.

First, it’s confession time: I used to be a terrible negotiator.

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the principles of negotiating. Or that I didn’t see the benefits of smart negotiation. I was determined to do it; I just was bad at it.

That means I was losing out on big money for a very silly reason.

You see, talking about price made me feel awkward. And because I felt awkward, I did whatever I could to make it NOT feel awkward. And that involved more talking. I bet you can hear exactly what that sounds like. Blab, blab, blab. Literally talking myself out of money.

And you know what? I know I’m far from alone in this. In fact just about every business owner I talk to says that conversations about price feel weird and awkward.

And that’s when people make a fatal mistake in a verbal negotiation: They propose the first price. And then, most of the time they keep talking.


Solving the Mystery of Why We Keep Talking (It’s Not Totally Our Own Fault)

I’ve often wondered exactly what compels people to want to talk first. Is that we just love hearing the sound of our own voice? Or that we want to get that price on the table first?


It’s because of how we’re conditioned. Namely we’re taught that silence is bad.

So in most cases I find that we actively fight against it. Because it’s uncomfortable... Silence feels like things aren’t going well, as though maybe there’s a mismatch.

I think women especially tend to want to fill silence because we’re conditioned to make others feel comfortable. Even to put others’ comfort over our own. So we do. Usually, I’ve found (and experienced myself), by talking and smoothing things over. Which can also mean we may talk ourselves out of whatever might be in our best interest.

Now, when it comes to business, I’m not the first person to recommend that you let the other person propose the first price in a negotiation. Any negotiation book or course will tell you to do that.

But how do you actually put that into practice in a real negotiation? Especially when you’re not a trained salesperson...and when you’ve been conditioned your whole life to make things less uncomfortable for people?

I had to figure it out for myself -- but I’ll let you in on the secret.


How I Beat Awkwardness in Negotiations

I combat it with a technique I call “The Awkwardness Mantra.”

Remember how I said that I always felt like it was my job to make others feel comfortable? Well, during my next few negotiations, I started really paying attention to how I was feeling in the moment.

And I realized that I always wanted to talk because I felt like it was my responsibity to remove the discomfort. To make others comfortable. To eliminate the awkwardness.

I realized I had to un-train myself from that way of thinking.

So I created my Awkwardness Mantra:

“It’s not my responsibility to make this less uncomfortable.”

As I started using it more, I started noticing how many other situations felt awkward and how my initial tendency was to fix them by smoothing them over -- by talking of course.

  • In group conversations where some participants just aren’t clicking.
  • When someone expresses an opinion that offends another person.
  • Even something as harmless as waiting for takeout to arrive, and it’s really, really late and we’re all getting hungry.

In all these situations, I realized how much I wanted to smooth things over, even if -- and especially when -- it wasn’t my responsibility to do so.

That’s when the mantra would kick in: It’s not my responsibility to make this less uncomfortable.

Of course, I could try to smooth it over if I wanted to. But just being in touch with why I felt the need to, and giving myself permission not to was SO LIBERATING.

AND this technique spilled over into my business. It instantly helped me sell better, because now I wasn’t trying so hard to fill the awkwardness, that I killed my opportunity for a good deal.


Back to That Revenue-Doubling Client

And this now brings me back to my amazing client, who doubled her revenue on a sale without saying a word.

As a bit of context, my client -- let’s call her Jane -- has a list price for her 60-minute workshops, but this particular prospect couldn’t meet her standard fee. So Jane had previously done a reduced-fee engagement for for him for $5,000, seeing it as an opportunity to get in front of key people who could hire her for additional work.

Jane was again in talks to work with this same client, and she was determined to make more than the meager $5,000 she had gotten the year before. The number she had in her head was $6,500.

As they started talking about price, they got to that awkward part where someone has to say something.

And what did Jane do?

She waited.

She waited a full 30 seconds, as her client was hemming and hawing, and basically apologizing that they couldn’t afford her prices.

Do you know how long 30 seconds feels? Set the microwave for 30 seconds, then just watch it. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.) It feels like FOREVER.

And indeed, for Jane, it did feel like forever.

But she used the Awkwardness Mantra she had created: “Just Give It A Minute.”

Finally the client said, “Would $10,000 be ok?”

Boom. Deal done.

Jane DOUBLED her revenue on the deal, and made $3,500 MORE than her target price.


Creating Your Own Awkwardness Mantra

Ready to make this technique work for you? First, start listening to yourself and being in touch with what you’re feeling when things get awkward.

Then ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Why are you assuming the awkwardness is about you?

Then create a reassuring statement that give you PERMISSION to let go of that feeling.

For Jane, it was her need to constantly move quickly and not waste time. So her mantra, “Just Give It A Minute,” was a perfect fit for her because it reminded her she didn’t HAVE to rush things.

My mantra, “It’s not my responsibility to make this less uncomfortable,” worked perfectly for what I was feeling.

Feel free to borrow one of ours, or yours could be something totally different.

Maybe an awkward situation makes you think you’re not doing something right and you start to doubt yourself. Maybe you start thinking you’re letting someone down. Or, maybe you’re worried your prospects will think you don’t have it all together.

Consider what might be creating your feeling of awkwardness and use it to create your own Awkwardness Mantra. Then use it to give yourself permission to just stop talking -- and let them propose a price first.

And that’s how you will be able to negotiate -- and close new clients -- Like a Boss.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready, here are three ways I can help you.

1. Join the Smart Gets Paid Group and connect with women entrepreneurs who are learning how to get clients too. This is my new Facebook community where badass women like you learn how to get the clients they want, without feeling salesy. Click here to join.

2. Learn how to get new clients without feeling salesy, in 10 weeks

If getting new clients is on your to-do list, but you're not sure where to start, I can help. You’ll learn step-by-step how to get the clients you want, without feeling salesy. And you’ll get the support you need to put learning into practice in your business. Just email me and put “Clients” in the subject line and I’ll get you the details.

3. Work with me privately

If you'd like to work directly with me to learn how to sell, get paid more, and get the clients you really want, just email me and put "Private" in the subject line. Tell me a little about your business and what you're struggling with when it comes to selling, and I'll get you all the details.

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