Most bloggers freak out when they hear the word n-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-e.
Why? Well, for many bloggers (at least for those I know personally and the ones honest enough to admit it), negotiating is pure torture.
I get it. It was torturous for me as well! Or it was… until I discovered the technique I’m going to share with you in this article.
In my early years as a freelance blogger, whenever I’d sit at the negotiating table, my palms would sweat, my guts would squirm… I’d be at a complete loss for words.
Sound familiar? Yes? No worries. Keep reading, and I’ll help you become a better and stronger negotiator.
You’ve seen hostage scenes in movies, right?
Let’s examine the most common fictional hostage scenario: the victim, gun pointed to his head, is tied to a chair. Beside him, the hostage-taker grabs his collar and torments him to give in to his demands.
He struggles as hard as he can, but, because he’s threatened with the gun pointed at his head, he freezes.
To all moviegoers, this is very familiar. The kidnapping maniac exploits the situation and uses it to demand things from the victim, the authorities involved, or whoever he can harass in order to get what he wants.
And, almost like clockwork, at about this time, a hostage negotiator is dragged onto the scene to neutralize the situation. It’s exactly what we, as a movie-going audience, want and expect to see! (But I won’t get into Screenwriting 101 in this post, I promise. Moving on…)
The moment the negotiator is thrust into the situation, the victim and the hostage-taker become the driving force of this painfully S-L-O-W unfolding drama.
Now, there are movies where reality is bent to fit the screenwriter’s view or the director’s motives — but many, if not all, of these scenes embody principles that real-life FBI negotiators apply to deal with dangerous hostage-takers in the real world.
The real FBI negotiators have to talk down hardened criminals who are prepared to kill at the slightest provocation. All *you* need to do as a freelance blogger is get through a simple negotiation conversation with your next client! And that’s where blogging and FBI hostage negotiation techniques connect.
Now it’s time to look at how it’s done. First, I’ll need to introduce you to the Behavioral Change Stairway Model that the FBI negotiating unit developed.
The real drama has just begun!
The 5 Stages of the FBI’s Behavioral Change Stairway Model (And How to Use Them to Get Higher Rates)
Stage #1. Active Listening
It’s a given: every hostage-taker, as well as your client, has a burning need or pain.
Right from the very beginning of your talk, you must identify her pain. When you’re done with that, try to understand that particular pain.
How? It’s a process. You start by carefully listening to your counterpart’s side of the bargain.
When I say… LISTEN, I mean you’ve got to throw all assumptions and preconceived notions about her out the window.
Truly seek to understand what she’s saying. Dig up those needs residing deep within. The ones she would “kill” to satisfy.
Don’t only listen, but listen *actively* — and make sure she notices your sincere efforts to lend an ear. (This can be applied much better on video calls, or during phone conversations with your client.)
That way, you can convince her you’re there not only to help yourself but also to help her, and work to improve things in your collaboration.
Reiterate that you’re seeking a win/win scenario, and not just to persuade her to pay you a much higher rate. Although, in reality, that’s what you secretly desire! 😉
Kidding aside, to be truly successful as a freelance blogger, you’ll ultimately need to aim for a win/win deal that leaves both of you flashing big smiles after your talk.
To accomplish this, you can’t merely pretend you’re listening to every word that she says. Don’t do that! Be sincere. Actually LISTEN. Do it earnestly, carefully. Hear every word coming out of her mouth and give her ideas some serious thought.
More importantly, hear what she’s NOT saying, too. (For those who’ve missed their caffeine fix today, what I’m trying to say is: read between the lines!).
Remember… “Decoding unuttered words is crucial to winning the negotiating game.”
It’s a skill every blogger ought to learn to snag higher rates.
To make sure you’ve understood correctly, and to prove that you’ve been listening, say things such as:
“…So you’re saying ________, right?” or “I got it, but just to be clear, what you want to get is_________, by doing ___________, right?”
By restating those details back to her, you emphasize the point that you’re sincerely listening to her and her concerns and that you completely comprehend what she’s communicating.
Do everything to show (NOT tell) that you’re seeking a noble goal: to see a win/win scenario blossom right then and there from your negotiation.
Stage #2. Empathize With Your Client
Aim to understand where she is coming from. This can be easy to say but hard to do.
So how can you go about it? Find out and know how she truly feels.
Realize that she’s exerting significant effort. Besides, she decided to invest her time discussing issues with you instead of seeking out another blogger.
If, right from the start, what you communicate to your client is the message: “No — I’m sorry, but YOU’RE WRONG– this is what we should be doing instead because I’M RIGHT.”
Sorry to say, but, with that kind of attitude, you’ve lost the fight.
That’s not empathy at all!
Stage #3. Establish Rapport
Basically, if you’re implementing this strategy properly, what you’ll feel is empathy.
Once your client feels it in return, you’ve established rapport.
This is another process you’ll need to be aware of. First, you’ll need to empathize with your client’s concerns. Upon genuinely feeling and showing her this, she’ll automatically feel it too. Right there. Right at that very moment. You’ve ignited a spark.
And, no matter how small that spark, rapport is born.
At this stage, that’s your ultimate goal.
Because, once a bond between you and her is created, you’ve gained ground. She’ll now act more comfortable with you. In fact, at this phase, she’ll start trusting you.
That means you’ve reached the top of the mountain, so to speak. To be more specific: you’re on the verge of clinching a WIN! (She’s now open to the idea that you’re worth higher rates.)
Stage #4. Wield Influence
At this stage, you’ve earned the right to collaborate with her. She’s open to you helping her to solve her issues, and, now, you can even suggest the next best thing for her to do.
Or, I’ll put it this way: now that your client trusts you, you can start recommending courses of action that she believes will benefit both of you.
Your client is now at ease working side by side with you.
Stage #5. Expect Behavioral Change
Granted you’ve effectively implemented the first four steps:
You have #1. Sincerely listened to her and her concerns, #2. You have empathized with her, #3. You have established a rapport (meaning, you have started a symbiotic working relationship) and… #4. You began collaborating with her, and…
You’re at #5. Here you can expect your client to act in your favor. (Finally!)
Yes, you have reached the point where you can expect a total transformation; a complete turnaround in your client’s attitude towards you.
If, at first, she was only thinking of her side of the bargain and her own victory (because she didn’t trust you yet); now she’s thinking of sealing a deal with you — something that will ultimately lead to both of you winning together.
In this stage, she’ll totally change her behavior.
Finally, she’ll agree to pay you a higher rate!
Because at #4, you earned her trust and she’s started collaborating with you. Here, at stage # 5, you can expect her to agree on a higher rate.
Behavior changes and how to trigger them
1. She started feeling more comfortable with you during step #3. The first few times that you worked with her, she was not at ease. As you continued working with her, she gradually felt comfier. That’s a huge evident change of behavior.
What’s the trigger? You conveyed the message that you’re genuinely interested in helping her address her concerns. Putting it differently: you showed her you have real empathy.
2. You started wielding influence during step #4. Before this stage, she didn’t take your advice. Now, she heeds your recommendations. And that, my fellow freelance blogger, is a TOTAL CHANGE!
What’s the trigger? It was a gradual process, actually. Not one trigger. Remember, we’re applying a stairway model here; You started with step #1, then you slowly glided into the next. You got to level #4 because you performed step #3 correctly; you gradually slid into step #3 because you excellently and thoroughly executed step #2, and so on…
In summary: you went through the stairway model, doing a series of steps. And each step, once done right, contributed to the proper carrying out of the model’s next steps, until you reached the final stage.
I can’t ingeminate enough: go to the negotiating table with a mouth shut and ears that are fully open.
Although dealing with a client is not a life or death matter like handling a hostage-taker, you can definitely apply the FBI’s Behavioral Change Stairway Model into the Blogosphere; specifically in the area of haggling for higher rates.
So next time you go to a negotiating session, remember: “don’t throw away emotions from the equation. Instead, use them to your advantage.”
As, Chris Voss, former head of the FBI negotiating unit, once said: “Emotions aren’t the obstacles to a successful negotiation; they are the means.”
Don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to throw in your argument. Go there with a genuine desire to listen.
That’s the ONLY way to win this game.
So… you’re ready for a raise?
Then pull out your BCSM cheat sheet and go confidently talk your way through a negotiation and get that higher rate. Soon you’ll be earning so much money, you won’t know what to do with it all!