Are We Negotiating? Always!

Written By Hannah Ferguson

This year, I studied several negotiating books ranging from classics like “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher to more modern and contemporary books like “Persuade and Get Paid” by Phil M. Jones. The book I found most interesting, however, was one written by a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, Chris Voss. You may think, “how would a book written by an FBI agent have anything to do with the work of a pharmaceutical recruiter”? Well, in fact it, there’s a ton of overlap!

Negotiations occur all the time in our daily lives, even if we don’t realize it’s happening. Although tactics might differ slightly across industries and professions, they pretty much all use the same fundamental techniques. Chris Voss might have been working with hostages, but he explains that negotiating is just a form of communication that everyone uses. Negotiations aren’t driven by logic and reason, but more so by empathy and understanding and human’s desire to be understood and accepted.

I won’t go into all of Voss’s tips and tricks, but some of the main ones include starting off the negotiation with as much information as you can find on your counterpart, showing empathy and active listening, treating the conversation as an act of discovery versus arguing, mirroring, and labeling emotions. If you’ve read any classic sales or negotiating books, you’ll realize how similar Voss’s ideas are, just with a slight spin on them. It’s the same with a lot of the sales training that we do as recruiters.

One of the most important things we’re taught is to “understand the terrain” (meaning understand the situation, job opportunity, person, etc.). Every person and situation is different, so having that understanding is very important when beginning to work on new positions for our clients or with new candidates.  Every Scientist, Director, or Microbiologist that we work with is different, so it would only make sense that we treat them differently! I like that Voss makes that a main focus of his book. He really understands that people are individuals that have different emotions, desires, fears, and outlooks on life. So, the next time you find yourself preparing for a negotiation, keep in mind Voss’s three key points to a successful negotiation: acknowledging the emotion, patience, and information!