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Using FBI Tactics to Close a Deal

I used to love reading, but in recent years I've felt like I'm too busy or have more important things to do than sit down and read a book (and by more important things, I mean scroll through Tik Tok for hours on end). For our secret swan Christmas party, everyone was opening their gifts which contained their favorite drinks, snacks, and more fun items. When it got to me, my gift bag revealed a book. Not going to lie, I was not super ecstatic about this book and even left it in my car for a solid week before even bringing it into my house. Now this book is in my home, and I feel guilty for scrolling on my phone or watching Netflix when I could be doing something more practical, such as reading this book. So finally, I decided to pick up Christopher Voss,' and Tahl Razs' Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It.

Before opening the book, I had only read the title and the summary, and the synopsis led me to believe that this book was about a man’s FBI career and some stories that went along with it. My initial judgment was correct; but the book is so much more than that. Never Split the Difference is about Chris Voss, the FBI's top hostage negotiator at the time. Although I am definitely not planning on working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and probably won't be rescuing hostages anytime soon, Chris Voss' negotiation tactics can be used in any career field, especially in business. Here are Voss' top negotiation tips I've learned that can be helpful in any business deal or even in your daily life.

1. Mirroring

Mirroring is the first tactic that Voss mentions in this book. Mirroring in a conversation simply repeats the last three words someone has just said. For instance, let's say your client is remarkably persistent in scheduling another meeting with you. You've already met three times this week, and it has become apparent that these meetings could easily be an email. So, he says, "Let's meet Wednesday at 3 PM". Your following response will be something like, "I'm sorry, Wednesday at 3?" now, you need to wait a few seconds, and let that sink in. From here, you will still keep mirroring his responses, and eventually, the client will understand that Wednesday is not an ideal time.

Now you may be wondering what this simple technique does. Continuously repeating words in this manner shows your client that you are being very attentive and do care about their needs.

2. Label their emotions

Problems in a negation tend to arise because both parties feel that the other person does not understand them or their situation. A negotiation is all about trying to understand the other person and making them feel comfortable. Labeling is being aware of someone's current mood and stating that. Using phrases like "it seems like…" or "it sounds like…" makes the other person feel as if you have concern for them, and they will tell you the real issue. Mirroring and labeling within the same sentence will show someone that you are very interested in and have empathy for them.

3. Master "No”

What is the primary goal of a negotiation? To get the other party to say yes at the end. While yes ends a negotiation, no starts one. As Voss says in the book, "The sooner you say no, the sooner you're willing to see options and opportunities that you were blind to previously."

What you have to do is start the conversation with a no. And by that, I mean create the conversation with a no-oriented question such as "Is this the wrong time to talk to you?" or "Do you want to stop seeing potential buyers for your company?"


Saying no makes the speaker feel in control and secure. It gives them a sense of authority, so trigger that sense when you can.

4. Trigger a "That's Right" response

"That's right" are two words that can do wonders for you in a negotiation. Getting this response means that both parties understand what they are talking about. One way to trigger a that's right response is by summarizing what you've been talking about. The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with a mirror to show the other party that you understand them.

5. Calibrate your questions

When you're starting to get frustrated in a negotiation, the worst thing you can do is react with angry emotions. Instead, ask the other party a calibrated question. Voss says, "Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is."


A calibrated question is a question that indirectly causes a "no" from your side. These questions avoid verbs like can, is, are, do, or does. Instead, they mostly start with what and how.


Here are some calibrated questions you can use depending on your situation:


  • How can I make this better?
  • What about this is essential to you?
  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • How would you like me to proceed?


        Using calibrated questions will force the other party to look at the situation from your point of view.

6. Bargain Hard

Bargaining is the most common form of negotiation everyone uses daily. Voss tells us about a bargaining model he calls "Ackerman Bargaining."


This process is easy to remember using the following steps:


  1. Set your target price (your goal).
  2. Set your first offer at 65% of your target price.
  3. Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (85%, 95%, and 100%).
  4. Use empathy regularly and different ways of saying no to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.
  5. When calculating the final number, use precise numbers like $109,897 instead of $110,00. This gives the number credibility and weight.
  6. On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item or an asset to show you're at your limit.

After reading these tips, I want to state that negotiation should not be used to manipulate others; it is used to get the best for both parties' interests. I hope those who read this will use these tips to help you close a deal, get the best price on a car at the dealership, or even help decide who gets the last slice of pizza at dinner. And a big thank you to Jared, who gave me a gift that I was not initially thrilled about, which turned into a great piece of information I intend to use throughout my future career.  

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