I first saw the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss in a bookstore in Houston International Airport. I was skeptical because the author, Chris Voss, is a former FBI negotiator and many of the techniques used are similar to hostage negotiation. I decided to pass only to get it as a gift from the company president.
I want to be honest and tell you the book is worth reading since you will find many interesting negotiation techniques such as mirroring, labeling, and others to guide you in your dealing efforts. These are all valid but rely on the premise that no deal is better than a bad deal. That is seldom a choice in business. If I have to recount the number of times any deal was preferable to not having cash flow the next morning, or reducing aged inventory to make space for newer merchandise, it would certainly exceed the number of pages in the book.
That is not to say many of the techniques will not help push and promote a deal just as well as in a hostage situation. Leaving the nefast results of a hostage deal gone wrong, there are two specific areas where Chris Voss coaching will come very handy. The first one is the pursuit of low acquisition prices, for example in M&A or purchase of a property. Everyone knows the empiric value of buy low, sell high, but getting there is much more complicated than thought, so the advice on the book comes handy at keeping the other party engaged and actively interested in keeping the deal alive. The second area is in countering extreme anchoring follies of other bare-knuckles negotiator who might try the same ideas in extracting the lowest possible price from some asset or service you happen to offer.
Chris Voss’s style is fun and straight forward, and comes off as the big FBI guy who has put the life on the line of duty while saving lives will laugh at the pressures of corporate life wheeling and dealing. But again, corporate life is not that simple either. The premise of no deal being better than a bad deal is a luxury many of us cannot simply afford when moving a business forward (low season sales anyone?) The founding stone of all these techniques might be counter to what is best for business, so use them but learn to maintain a pragmatic approach to your negotiation goals.