The Power of Silence in Negotiations

Silence can be a powerful tool in negotiations in many different ways. One best demonstrated by an example:

Silence When ‘Answering’

Richard represented a specialist consultancy and was negotiating with a prospective client.  The client was in the cosmetics and beauty industry and Richard’s employer was mostly known for its work in the oil and gas sector, but was trying to break into a new market.

After about an hour of fairly intense negotiation which had included fee rates, guarantees, time-scales, reporting and all the usual detail, the client purchasing manager fixed Richard with a steely gaze and asked him,

“You have no reputation in this industry and hence no credibility. Why would I risk giving you an important contract?”

Richard returned her gaze confidently and asked if he could take a moment to formulate a sensible answer to that most pertinent of questions.

She nodded.

He closed his eyes.

He sat silently for over a minute.

Then he opened his eyes and gave his answer.

He won the contract.

Later, when all was going well, the client purchasing manager was asked why Richard had been successful in the negotiation.  The answer was that over and above the detail of the negotiation Richard came over as being a thoughtful, considered and deliberate person, exactly the kind of intellect and character that the client wanted handling its business.

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