top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Caldwell

Negotiating like the FBI

Negotiations can be stressful, especially when there's a lot on the line. And through lockdown and borders being closed, some of us will have had little opportunity to continue practicing our negotiation tactics with customers.

Whether it's a major fundraising round, a term of employment with your boss, or a brochure inclusion deal with a customer, it's tough to stay calm, especially when the other party holds more power.

It's fair to say that when borders reopen, tourism operators will be looking for new opportunities to collaborate and sell their experiences with partners all around the world. We've pulled a few tips for negotiating like the FBI as inspired by former investigator Chris Voss.

Instead of pretending emotions don’t exist in negotiations,” Voss tells Eric Barker of Barking Up The Wrong Tree, “hostage negotiators have actually designed an approach that takes emotions fully into account and uses them to influence situations, which is the reality of the way all negotiations go.”

Now obviously, we're talking about business development and sales, not hostage negotiations, but the tactics can still apply perfectly well.

When preparing, it's key to stay focused on the positive. This will help you focus less on positions (like dollars and cents), and more on the options available to you.

What does former FBI investigator Chris Voss recommend?

Prime yourself for positivity.

Before the negotiation, get into a positive mindset by asking yourself:

* What am I most excited about?

* What is the best possible outcome?

* What am I trying to achieve?

This will help you frame the negotiation as an opportunity instead of a battle.

Smile :)

Evidence shows that our brains work up to 31% more effectively if we're in a good mood.

So during the negotiation, remember a quick trick: smile.

This flips the positive switch in your brain, improving your cognitive ability.

But also, due to mirror neurons in their brain, your counterpart is likely to follow suit, increasing your likeability and the chance they'll want to collaborate.

Use Downward Inflection

Say this: "This is the way it is, there's no...other...way", but progressively lower your tone for those last three words.

Imagine there's a position you want to stand firm on - like a term in the contract - you could raise your voice but that's likely to trigger an angry or defensive response. Instead, lower your tone so they know you're not willing to negotiate on this detail.


Repeat the other person's last (or a selection of) 1-3 words.

By doing this, they'll want to explain, reword or elaborate. This helps you to better understand what they're trying to say, but it also buys you time to think.

Use this to repeat their position like: "40,000 dollars" or "End of September". When they expand, you might reveal if there's any movement on that position.

Would love to hear your best negotiation tactics, share them in the comments below. What has worked for you in the past?

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page