Affiliate Marketing

Get to Yes: Three conversion lessons learned from FBI hostage negotiation


(This article was originally published in the MarketingExperiments email newsletter.)

“When it comes to data, simplify. Become an essentialist. Get beneath the data to the essence. Look for patterns. Patterns transform info into wisdom.”

— Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute

Not too long ago, the aunt of a prominent Haitian political figure was kidnapped and held for a $150,000 ransom demand. Hostage negotiator Chris Voss managed to convince the hostage-takers to release her for just $1471 dollars and a CD player. It’s a pretty incredible (true) story.

So how did he do it?

In this video, Flint McGlaughlin explains Voss’s secret, pointing out three lessons that business owners, marketers — and anyone else who needs to negotiate a deal — can learn to increase conversion.

Remember, the goal of a webpage is to win a yes. A sale is simply a big yes. It is the sum total of a series of smaller yes(s) the customer makes while interacting with your business.

Just as Voss knew that one small “no” in the negotiation process could put the safety of the hostage in danger, we should be aware that a single “no” anywhere in the customer journey can jeopardize the sale.

Watch the video to get the macro-YES.

If you would like your own webpage diagnosed on one of our upcoming YouTube Live sessions, you can send your website info through this form, and we’ll try to fit it in.

Key points in the video:

  • 4:33 Flint asserts that the negotiation principles revealed in the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss can be applied to marketing to increase conversion rates
  • 6:00 Lesson #1: Use pattern recognition from the data to gain customer wisdom (Patterns transform info into wisdom)
  • 7:46 A brief explanation of The Discovery Triad
  • 12:07 Create a hypothesis from the patterns. Case study: B2B to Pharmaceuticals company attempts to increase email opens.
  • 15:50 Lesson #2: Empathize, build rapport and transfer that to trust.
  • 24:34 Case study: Online people search company attempts to recover abandoned carts.
  • 33:44 Lesson #3: Conclusions not implied will likely be denied.
  • 37:20 Case study: Health/Nutritional drink landing page wants to increase conversions.
  • 42:14 Flint dissects the words Voss used with the hostage-takers to bring the 150,000 hostage return demand fee down to $4751 plus a CD stereo.
  • 53:48 Recap of all three principles
  • 55:37 Study: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning
  • 59:00 Vitamin provider wants to increase total revenue by optimizing its ecommerce page.

Related Resources

The Hypothesis and the Modern-Day Marketer 

The Power of Perceived Value: Discover how a well-marketed banana & roll of tape produced a windfall

Website Development: How a small natural foods CPG company increased revenue 18% with a site redesign

MECLABS Quick Win Consult : Get personalized, detailed conversion marketing advice at an affordable price


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