Questions are the foundation of negotiations. Thus, the questions you ask, when you ask them, and the way you ask them, all impact the negotiation. To the degree you ask good questions, those aligned with your goals for the negotiation, the negotiation progresses more easily upon the path of success.
The following are insights into how to use, how to answer, and how to avoid answering questions.
Assumptive questions give the impression that you may have more insight than you really possess. As an example, “In the past you’ve paid $5,000 for this service, correct?” In this case, you’re asking a subconscious and conscious question. The subconscious assumptive question is, you’ve used this service in the past. The conscious assumptive question is, you paid $5,000 for it. As such, you’re conveying the fact that you may have information about the other negotiator that can benefit you. In this case, observe how he answers the question (i.e. body language) and the words he uses to do so (i.e. para-language – words used to convey his sentiments). Both will give you insight, from which you can determine your next step.
Answering Questions with Questions:
Depending on the skill level of the other negotiator, you can answer his question with a question. By doing so, you gain more insight and information. By gaining more insight, you gain a greater perspective of his intentions. The skill level of your counterpart is important, because this tactic can also be used as a ploy to assess how deeply you’re prepared to lead him. If you’re not cautious, you can think you’re leading him while in reality you’re being led (i.e. disclosing your negotiation style and demeanor).
Emotions and Questions:
Emotions play a pivotal role in negotiations, especially when it comes to question. If you’re perceived as overemphasizing a word, a phrase, your question can project an unintended meaning. Negotiation Tip – People won’t always remember what you said, but they’ll remember the affect your words had on them. Suffice it to say, when asking questions be aware of your chose of words, the emphasis you place on certain words, and the speed and pace at which you speak. All of those factors impact the reception and perception of your questions.
When questions are posed and the other negotiator does not answer it, take note. The question may be hitting a sensitive spot that he does not wish exposed. If instead of answering the question he says he’d like to talk about another subject, you should note this even more; he’s giving insight through his actions that your question doesn’t have the importance to him as his topic. This could also be a ploy (i.e. in a negotiation, the person asking a question has more control). If you sense he’s avoiding your question because you’ve strayed into a sensitive area, you can pursue, or let it go for the time being. Do what’s appropriate for the timing and direction you’d like to take the negotiation.
There are many factors that lend to the importance of questions in a negotiation. Since questions are the heartbeat of a negotiation, in order to negotiate more effectively ask the appropriate question at the appropriate time. If you couple that with using the questioning tactics above, you’ll have a winning combination for more successful negotiations … and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!