Demand statements are powerful strings of dialogue that can either cut like a well-maintained samurai sword or a dull razor depending on your execution. In order to take your negotiations to the next level, you’ll need to find out how to personally keep your demand statements sharp and effective, rather than brute and sloppy.
The following 6 tactics will help you master the art of effective demand statements.
1. “I” versus “You” orientation.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s almost always better to speak for yourself using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. When people hear the word “you”, they immediately feel accused and start to get defensive. Once someone is triggered into a defense position, the ability to discuss or make progress in a negotiation is significantly slowed.
For example, instead of saying, “You missed the deadline,” say, “I had to apologize to the customer because we didn’t have the proposal completed on time.”
This way, the other party realizes that there is a real consequence of their actions that affects other people. Instead of immediately trying to save face, the other party will likely be more willing to sympathize and empathize with you.
2. Clear and specific.
Clarity is always key. Too often we ask for what we want in a vague or abstract way. Effective demand statements are clear, easy for the other party to understand, unambiguous, and specific.
Sometimes, we may “dress up” our demands to soften them up, but this actually can weaken our request. There is a certain expert subtlety to making a demand without being overly aggressive, but that line is much less nuanced when it comes to negotiations.
For example, “I need a verbal commitment that you agree to the proposal thus far before we move on” is much more direct than “Do you think that you could let me know whether you like what we’ve offered so far?”
3. Concise (minimize reasons).
Making clear, specific, and assertive demand statements can cause tension. Tension, thankfully for negotiations, can be a precious alchemist for finding a creative solution.
However, tension often leads us to continue talking when we should stop! At the very least, tension makes our stomachs squirm a little bit.
When you elaborate and supply too many facts and reasons, you weaken the power of your communication. Keep it short and simple! Learn to create and master tension in order to push your negotiations forward like a champion negotiator.
4. Constructive (rather than excess Conviction or excess Cooperation).
An effective demand statement is one that clearly communicates our expectations while treating the other party with respect.
As the course of a negotiation progresses, we tend to learn more about what the other party needs and wants. While our demands should clearly communicate what we want, they should be communicated in a way that respects what the other party has divulged thus far.
For example, “You mentioned that your company is going through some internal restructuring, and we’re willing to work with you through that, but I need a signed agreement by Wednesday if you’d like to lock in these same terms.”
5. Repeat, Acknowledge, and Stay in the Tension.
It’s often necessary to repeat your demand statements more than once to be heard and to stay in the tension.
Try to acknowledge the other party’s point of view: “I understand that you are very busy, Jim. I still need the proposal completed today.”
By repeating your demands, you keep the conversation in that healthy tension and maintain the momentum.
6. Use silence.
Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying anything at all.
In general, most of us continue talking long after we have asked for what we want. This tends to weaken our previous statement. Instead, make a clear, concise demand statement, and then be quiet. Your demand statement shouldn’t leave any room for any ambiguity as to whether what you just said needs a response.
Wait for the other party to respond before jumping in with the next thing you want to say. At a very minimum, this will urge the other party to recognize that you have a demand and that there is an intention behind the conversation.
Final Thoughts – 2 BONUS Tips for Using Demand Statements
Making demands is an art form that must be mastered by any negotiator looking to excel in their field. The following two tips are carved out of countless years of experience.
1. Make sure that your words, music, and dance are consistent.
“Music” is the tone of your words. “Dance” is the expressions and body language you use. The effect of a well-crafted demand statement is weakened through an angry tone or a skeptical facial expression.
Your demand statements are most powerful when your words, music, and dance are all working in harmony. This takes practice, and you may have to run several demand statements in front of a mirror, but ultimately the difference is gigantic.
2. Use feelings as feedback.
Expressing honest feelings is a constructive way to give feedback to another team member.
Rather than judging another person (“I think your position is unreasonable.”), use an “I feel” demand statement to move the dialogue forward. For example, “I’m feeling frustrated that I’m not hearing a proposal from you that I can live with.” helps to re-focus the negotiation towards the demand at hand, rather than superfluous conversation.
RED BEAR Negotiation Company is a global performance improvement firm dedicated to maximizing the profitability of the agreements negotiated with customers, suppliers, partners, and colleagues. If you’re interested in empowering your sales team with world-class negotiation skills, fill out the form below or click here for more information.