Communication Credibility: Without It, There’s No Persuasion or Negotiation Leverage
Show us a successful negotiator and we’ll show you someone who is highly conscious about how they communicate with others. It’s not about who can talk the fastest or prove that they know more than everybody else in the room—it’s about building credibility. This is crucial because credibility ultimately translates into leverage for getting the right deal done.
There are lots of ways to damage your credibility by communicating irresponsibly:
- Addressing other people in terms of stereotypes rather than unique individuals. An example is treating an IT leader in the room like a geek who only cares about technology and assuming they won’t care about the strategic business value of your solution.
- Being dismissive of other people’s contributions, even if you immediately disagree with them. Being gracious when somebody offers an idea you disagree with keeps them engaged and thinking how they could offer more helpful ideas. Rather than “That’s a stupid idea!”, try “Thanks for your thoughts, Ben. I think that will be important to keep in mind going forward.”
- Using private facts as weapons against the other party. If you use something given to you in confidence as public ammunition, you can expect your ability to get this deal done—and all future deals with this party—to degrade considerably. And you will lose the respect of your own team in the process.
- Not taking responsibility for what you say. This includes anticipating the effect of your words and taking complete responsibility for your statements. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to close a deal with somebody who has no internal editor or denies and twists their past statements based on a need for perceived temporary advantage.
- Acting like you know everything. Be the “inquirer,” not the “knower,” and respect both the knowledge of others and the limits of your own knowledge. Those who always lecture tend to sound condescending, which breeds resentment.
These are just some of the behaviors that can damage your credibility. When you are credible, people tend to listen to you. This is critical in negotiations. Think about what happens when you engage in conversation with someone who has no credibility, someone you consider a “b—s— artist.” What do you do? You usually turn off; you stop listening. Well, if you are not listening to someone, what chance do they have of persuading you?
But being credible is only the first step. You must also be persuasive. For example, you can easily present a business case showing why the price you’re charging is competitive in your industry and is consistent with reasonable cost structures. However, to show the other side why they should pay that price—that it will make them more competitive in their business—you must know something about their business. That’s more difficult, because you don’t know as much about their business as you do about your own.
People don’t make decisions because they understand or believe what you are saying. While these first two attributes are important, the main reason someone decides in your favor is the value you provide for them. Dealing with you makes them “better,” however “better” is defined. And, of course, your value argument will usually have more impact if you can quantify “better.”
We wrote a white paper for those of you who have to make credible value arguments from the sales side during negotiations: It explores value-based arguments and selling approaches more deeply. Click here if you would like to give it a look.