By Greg Williams
Questions form the foundation for the exchange of information in a negotiation. To the degree you ask better questions, you’ll achieve greater negotiation outcomes. The following are 7 questions you can ask that will make you a better negotiator, and enhance the probability of your negotiation outcomes.
- Did you hear what you just said?
This question can be used to draw attention to a point that you wish to highlight. It can also serve as a distraction away from a point that doesn’t serve you.
- What’s the best outcome you’d like to see us reach?
This question gets at the heart of what the other negotiator would like to see as a ‘best outcome’ situation, which gives you insight into his thought process.
- What’s most important to you in this negotiation?
Similar to question number 2, you’ll gain insight into the thought process of the other negotiator, which will give you a glimpse of how to negotiate with her. You’ll also get an idea of her priorities.
- What concerns do you have about this negotiation, this point, etc.?
This serves as a way to probe deeper into the mindset of the opposing negotiator per what he fears the most about the outcome of the negotiation. Observe his body language. If he says he doesn’t have any concerns. Note if he sits back or leans forward as he’s speaking. If he leans forward, he’s more likely not to be concerned at that time. If he leans away, that could indicate he does have concerns, he might not want to share them with you at that time.
- What can we do to get past this impasse?
By getting his perspective, you gain a sense of how you might unravel the impasse. If you can adopt his suggestions, to the degree they serve you, you’ll be granting him the outcome he wants. That means he’ll buy into it. Remind him that you’re following his suggestions if he balks later.
- Why is that so important?
First, be observant of your tone when posing this question. Your tonality might be perceived as the matter being trivial. If it possesses true value to her, you don’t want to give the impression that it’s not a big deal, especially if it is to you. By doing so, she could say, okay, then give it to me. That would leave you in a weakened position.
- What can I do to make things right?
Be very cautious when asking this question. You don’t want to open the floodgates by allowing the other negotiator to ask for the moon and you not be able to grant the request. On the opposing side, once again, you get a sense of what it might take to make it better, which means you can choose to grant some or none of the request.
As you can see, the questions you pose during a negotiation set the tone and pace of the negotiation. The questions above can be strategically used during a negotiation to direct or redirect the negotiation in a particular direction that serves your purpose. To do so, use the questions in the order that are best suited for your purpose based on when a particular question is needed. If you do this masterfully, you’ll leave the negotiation with more gains than you otherwise might have had… and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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