You wouldn’t necessarily think FBI hostage negotiators and photographers have much in common but they do. These are the psychological techniques they use that photographers should be using too.
It doesn’t matter what type of photography you do, there will be times when you need to negotiate. Be it with customers, agents, clients, locations, or talent. Getting a “no” to a request can seriously derail what you want to achieve as a photographer. This understandably needs to be minimized where possible. Sometimes, a simple rephrasing in a negotiation can dramatically improve those chances of a positive outcome.
This is where former FBI hostage negotiator turned author Chris Voss is a true master and someone our community should really be learning from. Over on Lewis Howes’ YouTube channel, Howes has a fascinating discussion with Voss about all things negotiation. Voss deconstructs and distills down many key concepts of human behavior in an easy to understand way. Things like emotional recognition, why people get defensive, and filtering clients are just a few key takeaways worth knowing. One case study mentioned was that of a realtor who after taking advantage of many of the techniques Voss talks about, managed to filter their prospective clients by 80% and still make the same number of deals. This kind of ratio change is something I’m sure many of us photographers would dream of being able to do.
One concept that I’ve never personally thought about before is the idea that people often have the desire to correct you if you’re wrong. I think those who have frequented the comments section online know this to be true. Voss talks about using this tactic to our advantage as a way to get information out of a potential client during a meeting. For example, instead of asking how much the competition is charging it is better to say that you know the competition has quoted double to which a correction by the client could be made. Thus divulging details to you which they may never have given otherwise.
The video is a long one at over an hour but I think it’s well worth the time investment. I couldn’t help but watch this talk and think how the approaches he was suggesting could be used by photographers day-to-day.
Lead image by Donald Tong, used under Creative Commons.