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How to Sell Like an FBI Hostage Negotiator

Imagine facing an armed madman who has a hostage in a headlock and is threatening to kill himself and everyone in the room. With your heart pounding and thoughts racing, you need to appear calm, collected, in control, and even a little friendly. From there you need to convince this crazy person to let the hostage go and put the weapon on the floor.

This type of scene was just another day in the life for former FBI hostage negotiator Mark Goulston. Today, however, Goulston is using his powerful persuasion skills to help the business world. As a business adviser and consultant, he shares his advice on how to get people to do what you want in the Business Insider article, Former FBI hostage-negotiation trainer shares 6 tricks for getting people to do what you want.

After reading Goulston’s advice, I couldn’t help but think that some of his tips can be applied to sales. As a small business owner, you’re constantly selling yourself and your business either directly or indirectly. You know your products and services can help, but there are always ways to sharpen your persuasion skills.

Here’s my take on how some of the persuasion tips Goulston offers in the article can be used to sell ideas, products and/or services:

“Get them to talk.”

I learned this one at a networking event, and it was re-affirming to see Goulston back it up. When we’re selling something, there is a tendency to want to go into full detail about what the product can do. While there’s a time and a place for that, if you let your prospect do more of the talking you can discover unmet needs they may have, which will allow you to craft personalize your sales pitch to meet their needs.

“As they are speaking, pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs they use.”

This is a great piece of advice. As a person is talking, pay attention to when and where they use adjectives and adverbs like “really” “perfectly” or “very.” So if, for example, a prospect says “We’re really looking to increase revenue this year,” the use of “really” is an indicator that your pitch needs to be focused on helping them increase revenue.

“Use ‘fill in the blanks.’”

Goulston suggests using a fill-in-the-blank method instead of asking direct questions since asking questions can feel too much like an interrogation. Instead of asking “What is your budget?” try saying “So your budget is…” and let them fill in the rest.

“Try to trigger positive flashbacks.”

Goulston writes, “Whenever you say, do, or ask something you almost always trigger unconscious flashbacks for the person you’re speaking to.” Your goal is to make sure those flashback are positive. If they are, then the prospect is much more likely to go along with what you’re trying to do.

Do you have any powerful persuasion skills or tactics that you help to sell your business? Share them below!


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