Blog

Pamela Meyer

June 18, 2015 by Speakers' Spotlight

IncentiveWorks Tips: Spotting Deception In Negotiations

You know this already: nearly everything in business involves a negotiation—choosing a vendor, renting a location, hiring a contractor, and expanding your marketing efforts. What you may not realize is that the higher the stakes, the more likely that someone on the other side will seek to gain advantage through deception.

Here are three examples of the ways that deception can derail a negotiation:

Lies of omission. Imagine that over a period of months, a vendor woos you with glowing descriptions of the Fortune 1000 clients they serve and the amazing things they have accomplished for those clients. You sign a long-term contract with the vendor, and two weeks later learn that all but one of those clients fled the vendor over the past six months, a fact they never mentioned during your negotiations.

It’s all too easy for negotiators to adopt a “they never asked, so I never volunteered it” mindset. Your best defense against this type of deception is to be incredibly thorough in your due diligence, and to ask about everything.

TIP: Make a thorough checklist of questions but don’t ask them all at once. That’s a surefire rapport buster. Be patient and ask them over the course of several conversations. Start with open-ended questions and gradually get more specific.

Trying to “win.” Many people view a negotiation as a sport, with a winner and a loser. Guess which outcome they want, and which one that leaves for you? People with this mindset are dramatically more likely to engage in deception.

To transform an unnecessarily aggressive negotiation into a productive one, monitor your own thoughts first: frame each negotiation as a process designed to create a win/win long-term relationship. If one side “loses,” the relationship won’t be sustainable. You see this all the time in business… a large company demands major concessions from a vendor, and for the next two years, the vendor does everything possible to scrimp on quality and cut costs, simply because their margins are now impossibly narrow.

TIP: Ask “How can I be useful to you?” at the beginning of the negotiation and “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” at the end. Sounds simple but you will be incredibly surprised how fast these simple questions advance your cause.

Being evasive. Make no mistake, deception is hard. The deceiver has to keep track of both actual reality, and of his or her distorted version of reality. The more complicated a contract or negotiation, the more challenging it is to pull off a deception.

Under such circumstances, people give all sorts of clues that reveal they are engaged in deception. They stall for time—by restating your questions or repeating what you just said—and they flat-out evade your requests for information and/or documentation. “Are we going to turn this into a five-year process?” could be a reasonable objection to too many information requests, or it may be a red flag when uttered in response to a seemingly simple question.

There are many ways to spot deception, and you already know some of them. People who are telling the truth don’t have to worry about constructing a credible account; they speak naturally and without hesitation, because all they have to do is recount what actually happened.

When the tone of a conversation starts to take slightly odd shifts, you would be wise to heighten your concerns. For example, watch out if you hear too much detail surrounding a minor issue, but too little concerning a major one… or if the number of qualifying statements increases (i.e. “to the best of my knowledge,” “ to be honest”).

The ability to detect deception is a crucial skill that will serve you well in every business negotiation. The better aware you are of what can go wrong, the better you will be able to ensure that nothing does. Come to IncentiveWorks in August and you’ll learn a scientifically-proven method for spotting lies, by observing body language, story structure and verbal language tells.

Pamela Meyer/ 2015