“Great Negotiators Know How To Ask Good and Better Questions“
Some negotiators believe, there’s no such thing as a bad question. They believe all questions solicit additional information – information that you wouldn’t receive if the question went unasked. I don’t think that’s true!
Some questions weaken your negotiation position. They project a lack of perceived foresight. And they can allow openings for the other negotiator to take control. But you can turn some weak questions into better ones that benefit your negotiation position.
If you’re somewhat confused right now, how do you feel about your confusion? Do you possess a desire to discover more on this topic? Do you have some other need? That’s the power of questions. They can control the thoughts of the other negotiator and put you in a power position. Questions can also lead to the other negotiator pulling away from you. Thus, you must know how and when to use them.
This article delivers insights about when and how to ask better questions to improve your negotiation position.
A bad question is made worse by its timing. That can decrease the perception of your persona and make you appear weak. But what might appear to be a bad question posed with proper timing can gain a wealth of information. That would turn it into a good question.
When asking questions such as, how can I help you? Or, what can I do to assist – you display a lack of knowledge about the needs of the person you’re soliciting?
Nevertheless, there is a place for questions that may appear to be weak or lack specificity. You’d use them when they enhance the planned persona you wish to project. In such times, you’d use the mentioned questions as tools of positioning. Questions such as, how can I help you will cast a broader net. It will gain a deeper insight into the information you’re seeking.
Better questions solicit better information. And they heightened your sense of control as a negotiator. Such questions …
use what-if scenarios. What-if scenarios explore the realm of possibility. They don’t commit you to action unless the scenario is agreed on by all parties. Example – what if we lowered your cost and shipped the items early, could we close the deal today? If the other negotiator was in agreement, you’d have a deal. If she wasn’t, you will have gained insight into her negotiation position. Either way, you’ve gained valuable information.
challenge existing norms. When challenging popular beliefs, you’ll attract attention. Depending on how your questions are received you’ll become more influential. You might be placed in a position of having to defend your position, too. So, consider the types of questions you’ll use to challenge popular norms and how they’ll position you in the negotiation.
can’t be answered quickly. When asking questions that someone can’t readily answer, they go into thought mode. Depending on the environment, you can throw them a lifeline by answering the question yourself. Or, you can let them flounder. By allowing them to flounder, you allow others to view their lack of knowledge. That will decrease their perceived expertise. By saving them, they’re spared from floundering. That will ingratiate them to you.
Assumptive questions allow you to be perceived as possibly knowing more than you do. You can use them to test the other negotiator’s position or offer. To do so, make a statement that infers you have secret information. You can also make the statement sound like a question. Example – “You’ve given larger discounts in the past, correct?” After that, be very attuned to the response per the inflection in the voice and mannerisms displayed. Look for signs of agreement, lies, or doubt. If you sense either, probe deeper.
The questions asked determines the information that’s received. And the timing of those questions detracts from or enhances that information. To increase your ability to gather quality information in your negotiations, ask good timely questions that lead to better answers … and everything will be right with the world.
“How To Ask Powerful Questions To The Right People”
She looked at him and became emotionally aroused with each passing moment. Finally, she said, “who are the right people that can answer my questions?” The customer service rep that she was speaking to sheepishly said, “mam, I’m not sure – I just started working here last week.”
How many times have you found yourself exasperated over an unresolved situation? Did you take a moment to examine why you were upset? Such situations usually stem from four possibilities:
You have the wrong demeanor
You’re not speaking to the right person
You ask the wrong question
You’re not asking powerful questions
The following will assist you in addressing all four of those factors.
No matter with whom you’re speaking, your demeanor will determine how they interact and respond to you. Thus, your demeanor needs to match the situation. If you display one that’s weak, in the face of a strong personality type, she may dismiss you as not being relevant. If you position yourself through your demeanor as someone that’s significantly above the other individual, he may become uncooperative.
To adopt the best demeanor, before making your approach observe the other person’s mannerisms – assess their feelings and the kind of day they may be having. Based on your assessment, if it’s appropriate, look for ways to compliment them. If they’re in ‘rush mode’, be pleasant and get to the point with your questions.
The overarching point is, position yourself right before posing your questions and you will have won half the battle.
Speaking To The Wrong Person/People:
It’s ludicrous to think you can get the right solution by talking to the wrong person. So, before seeking assistance, inquire about the person’s ability to grant your request. If he states that he can’t offer a solution, ask who can.
The point is, don’t waste time presenting questions to someone that can’t provide a solution. Doing so will only further exasperate you. It will also cause you to be less tolerant with the person that can provide a solution to your situation.
Asking The Wrong Question:
Depending on the circumstances, it may be correct to ask someone if they can assist you or who’s in charge – posing such questions will begin the engaging process. But if you know with whom you should speak to obtain a resolution to your concerns, don’t dilly dally – get to the point.
Asking if someone has the responsibility or authority to assist you indicates that you’re not familiar with the environment. Use more powerful questions such as those that follow to improve your position.
Asking Powerful Questions:
The very first question you ask sets the tone for the discussion to follow. And it should be a question that’s posed to the right person – the person that can grant your request. Thus, the question must be dynamic – one that places you in a position of authority and control. And, as an aside, authority doesn’t have to mean that the other person must sing your praises – it means that he cares enough to assist you. To solicit his support, ask such questions as:
How quickly might you resolve this situation (the assumption being he has the authority and he’s going to resolve your problem)?
How much of a rebate/discount might I receive to rectify this situation (this question suggests that you’re seeking restitution)?
When I speak with a ‘higher authority’, how would you like me to represent our interaction (this question can border on intimidation – be cautious about its use – never attempt to intentionally bully or demean someone – that can cause an unforeseen and unimagined backlash)?
There’s power in the way you ask questions and to whom you pose them. Thus, if you ask the right questions in the right manner at the right time, you’ll experience the right outcome more frequently … and everything will be right with the world.
What does this have to do with negotiations?
Questions are the backbone of negotiations. Therefore, by asking the right question in the right situation, you enhance your chances of getting the answers that lead to a better negotiation outcome. Never overlook the power of posing the right questions to the right people. Asking the right questions can be your silent ally.
“Setup questions can be to a person what a snake charmer is to a snake, mesmerizing. Watch the person that uses setup questions to mesmerize you!” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“In Negotiations Be On The Alert For Setup Questions”
“I can’t believe he asked me when I stopped beating my wife. I’ve never beaten my wife; I love her too much to do that!” Those were the dejected words spoken by a man that was in the throes of a messy divorce proceeding, as he responded to the question posed by the lawyer of his soon to be ex-wife.
Are you aware of how and why setup questions are designed to motivate you to a particular thought or action? In negotiations, you should be on the alert for setup questions.
A setup question (e.g. Most people would be horrified if that happened to them, right?) is used to position someone’s response as measured against what is viewed as being normal by others; it can also be used to alter the thought process of an individual.
The challenge to the responder is, if he answers contrary to the norm, he appears to be outside of that norm. That makes him appear to be abnormal. That’s a position that most people attempt to avoid, especially when such is exposed to others. The perception of abnormality can position someone as, he’s not like the rest of us, which can place that person in a squeamish position. It’s another way to apply a sense of unseen but felt leverage upon him.
When this tactic is used to alter someone’s thought process, it can be even more devastating, due to the attack on that person’s mental psyche. Thus, it can also be used to take someone off the offense and put them on the defense.
This tactic becomes more burdensome to the recipient of this ploy when used by someone that’s an aggressive or bully type of negotiator. The reason being, when confronted by an aggressive negotiator, more than likely, you’re already experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety. That may be in the form of just being more aware of your negotiation environment. The point is, you’re not relaxed, you’re on edge. That will prohibit your normal thought process from occurring which could lead to making errant decisions.
To recount, in all of your negotiations, be aware that setup questions may be posed at different times and for multiple purposes. They can be used:
For the purpose of altering your mental state. Once your mental state is altered, you may be more susceptible to falling into a defense that simply keeps you off the offense.
For positioning purposes, a setup question may be used to have you viewed in an unflattering manner, so as to marginalize the perception that others have of you and to disallow them from having empathy to your point or position.
To alter one’s mind, such questions may also be used in an attempt to make you forget, defuse, or confuse the point you were attempting to make.
The more alert you are to the possibility of setup questions being used in your negotiations, and how they might be used, the better prepared you’ll be at defending yourself against them. Doing so will give you an advantage in the negotiation … and everything will be right with the world.
“The degree of success you experience in life and in negotiations is based to a degree on asking the right questions successfully.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“How To Use Reverse Questioning To Win More Negotiations”
You no doubt know what reverse engineering is, right? Reverse questioning in a negotiation is the process of identifying the questions you need to ask in order to obtain the answers that will lead to a successful negotiation outcome. It’s also a way to identify how you’ll control the flow of the negotiation.
As a quick example, if you wanted to exit a negotiation paying $1,000 for a product you’d work from the outcome sought back to the beginning of the negotiation; you might also consider working back from that point to how you would position yourself prior to entering into the negotiation. To perform the latter, you’d assess the requirements needed (i.e. how you’d position yourself) to have your persona projected in a certain light/manner.
The following is what the step-by-step process would look like.
Identify the most and least favorable outcome you’ll seek from the negotiation, along with why you’ve identified those points of juxtaposition. As a benefit, having that insight will help you identify exit points from the negotiation.
Assemble a list of questions that might be asked of you as you would go through the negotiation.
Create answers to the questions posed in step 2 that are needed to drive your efforts towards a winning negotiation outcome, while formulating questions you’ll ask to keep the negotiation on track; these will be your defensive questions. Identify points where you can answer a question with a question; remember, the person asking the questions is the person controlling the negotiation. That’s due to the fact, that person is gaining more information.
Once you create and address step 3, create a list of questions that you might ask of the other negotiator that’s separate from the ones you might use to respond to his questions; these will become your offensive questions. Offensive questions are questions that move your negotiation efforts quicker towards the end of the negotiation; they are questions that the other negotiator has to agree with because they’re based on what he’s previously stated as his beliefs or truths; you’ll be weaponizing his thoughts and questions against him. Some of these questions will also come in the form of questions that answer questions.
Assess how the opposing negotiator might respond to your scenario.
Continue going over steps 1 through 5, in an attempt to uncover additional questions that you’d not considered that need to be included in the process.
Once you feel you’ve honed the questions to a point that the other negotiator has to follow a prescribed path that you’ve created for the negotiation, test your hypothesis in a mock negotiation. This will allow your questioning process to become more refined and may uncover better/additional questions.
Once you feel totally prepared to utilize your questions in a negotiation, do so. Engage with the confidence in knowing that you’ve created a stealthy way of capturing better information as you go throughout the negotiation.
Save your questions in a repository to be used for comparison to past and future negotiation situations.
The wrong question asked at the right time in a negotiation may do incalculable harm. The wrong question asked at the wrong time in a negotiation may lead to a negotiation impasse. Create and test your questions before entering into a negotiation and you’ll have more of a chance to reach a successful negotiation outcome … and everything will be right with the world.