Empathy as a lever for sales negotiation

halifax consulting Published by Halifax Consulting – 29 June 2023

Empathy plays a crucial role in negotiation, enabling the parties involved to better understand each other. In particular, it enables :

  1. Create mutual value by better understanding and listening to mutual interests.
  2. Establishing trust: a genuine willingness to listen to and understand the other party helps build the trust that is essential to success. It’s also a way of preventing, anticipating and resolving conflicts.
  3. Improving long-term relationships: this reinforces a climate of mutual respect and cooperation.
  4. Enhancing reputation: Empathetic negotiators are perceived as more ethical and respectful. This reputation can have a positive impact on how the company is perceived by customers, partners and stakeholders, strengthening the organization’s credibility and brand image.

Of course, if everyone can quickly agree on the effectiveness of empathy, the question is how to develop and implement it.

Here are some key steps for cultivating and strengthening empathy during negotiations:

  1. Thorough preparation: Before starting a negotiation, it’s crucial to learn about the other party. Good preparation isn’t just a self-centered way of boosting your effectiveness. Above all, it’s about showing the other party the importance you attach to them.
  2. Active listening: During negotiation, pay close attention to what the other party is saying, by rephrasing, asking clarifying questions and avoiding interruptions. But also pay attention to what is not being said. Ask questions when you don’t understand, when you have doubts, when it’s uncertain. A humble, inquisitive attitude is also a sign of attention to others.
  3. Careful observation: Pay close attention to the other party’s non-verbal language, such as facial expressions, posture and gestures. These clues can help you identify underlying emotions. Every change in the other person’s behavior should prompt you to step back and try to understand what has changed for them in the course of your conversation.
  4. Emotional validation: Acknowledging and validating the other party’s emotions is an essential element of empathy. Express your understanding of their feelings and show openness and benevolence towards their concerns. Understanding and sharing the other person’s emotion doesn’t mean you agree with them, but simply give them a sign that you share their emotion.
  5. Empathetic rephrasing: Rephrase what the other party says that reflects their emotions and needs. This technique demonstrates your understanding of their perspective and fosters constructive dialogue. Don’t try to trick your interlocutor or simplify his or her speech.
  6. A search for common ground: Identify and highlight common interests and objectives between the parties. This creates common ground and reinforces the feeling of cooperation and collaboration. Identifying, sharing and reinforcing common ground with your counterpart is one of the best sales levers.
  7. Transparent communication: Be honest and transparent in your communications, while remaining respectful and empathetic. Openness helps to build trust and facilitate exchanges. But be careful not to be too naive. Not everything can be said to a customer – see the Johari window in negotiationbut we do know that the more information is shared and made transparent, the more trust and efficiency will be achieved.

By applying these techniques in particular, you’ll be able to develop and strengthen your empathy during negotiations. This can be cultivated with time and experience, and the application of these principles can greatly contribute to improving the quality and effectiveness of your professional interactions.

Amine Arezki

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