“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.
“Not Thinking Right Can Lead To The Wrong Outcome”
He was flying to Toronto from the U.S. He noticed a $250 difference in the airfare when flying into one airport versus another. He also noted that the two airports were only 13 miles apart. So, he thought, for a $250 savings, I’ll fly into the less expensive airport. That was the beginning of a bad decision! It was not the #right #outcome that he’d hoped for.
When you think about maximizing your outcomes, do you consider the order of your thoughts and how that influences your thinking? At what point do you consider you’ve received enough information before deciding to take action? Those are very important questions to ponder. Because, based on the order of your thoughts, you’ll adopt one action versus another. That, in turn, determines the degree of value you add or subtract to the outcome.
To improve your thought process, consider the following.
In the situation with the airports, the ground transportation from the less expensive airport was $250 roundtrip, to get to the hotel and back to the airport. That negated the savings of flying into the less expensive airport. Plus, more time was required to get from the less expensive airport to the hotel. Yuck!
Mistakes in Thinking:
Our friend made the following misjudgments in his thinking:
He figured, since the airports were only 13 miles apart, ground transportation wouldn’t be more than $60 roundtrip – he made that assessment based on travels he’d undertaken in the U.S. – he missed that guess by $190 – ouch!
Lesson to observe – everyplace is not like every other place. Unless you have factual data, don’t assume what was true in the past will be constant with the situation you’re considering.
Our friend did not consider calling the hotel and asking for information about its proximity to the airports and ground transportation.
Had he sought further information – our friend would have received feedback that led him to make a better decision. He would have recognized the value he thought was in the less expensive airport was a mirage.
Our friend was in a hurry to book the flight and move on to other activities.
Sometimes, you should let information simmer before acting on it. In that time, you may consider additional thoughts that alter the value of that information. Our friend’s hasty decision created more angst than he initially realized. Don’t let that happen to you.
The lesson offered from this information is, when making important decisions, take note of your thinking process. Pay special attention to outcomes that may leave you in a place that you’d rather not be.
Before committing to an action, consider thoughts you might engage, the order of those thoughts, thoughts that might serve you better, and why you weren’t thinking about those thoughts before the outcome you arrived at. Doing so will lead to more fruitful and happier outcomes … and everything will be right with the world.
What does this have to do with negotiations?
If you’re unprepared for a negotiation situation, your assessment, and the way you respond may later become deemed as being irrational. Thinking about situations you might encounter ahead of time and preparing for them will temper possible negative outcomes – it will also give you more opportunities to consider how to think differently and/or better about the situation.
Therefore, in a negotiation, the order of your thoughts will have a drastic effect on the actions you take per the offers and counteroffers you make – that will determine the outcome of the negotiation. Thus, you should consider what’s motivating your thinking, why you’re motivated to think that way and where those thoughts may lead. By doing that, your thought process and how you order your thoughts will become your greatest assets.
A good negotiator knows, when you embrace the right buy-in, you cure hidden disasters before they can occur.
For almost a year, they secretly planned the rollout. They touted it as a facelift that would change the name and position of the association. Doing so would give it a fresh look and appearance for the 21st century. But when the rollout occurred, the backlash was severe. All the money, time, expenses, and efforts that went into the new face of the association went down a drain of despair. The question that buzzed throughout the association was, how could this have happened? The response was when you embrace the right buy-in, you stop hidden disasters. And this disaster was easily avoidable.
First, as a negotiator, what do you think went wrong? What buy-in do you seek when thinking about the obstacles you might face in your negotiations? To the degree you obtain the right buy-in, you have a better chance for a successful outcome. To the degree you get the right buy-in at the right time, your chances of a successful outcome increases substantially.
Secrecy – In the opening situation, the president of that association assembled a team of prominent members – all were members of the association. Their expertise stretched across the spectrum of branding, marketing, and social media. None were members of the vanguard that had watched over the association for decades. And the omittance of that group’s input was a silent blinking red light that foretold the death of the project.
Negotiating in secret environments can be beneficial. It can prevent unwanted distractions from slowing the progress of the negotiation. It also serves to gather the buy-in of stakeholders that might torpedo the negotiation. Thus, secrecy can be a form of control – it can also be the deliverer of disaster if not used right.
Forgotten power players – The name of the association had stood for four decades. And some of the revered founding members were still active in the association. When the new name was revealed, that vanguard was the catalyst that caused the committee’s efforts, and the new name, to meet a swift death. Had the committee consulted this vanguard, the committee would have known its efforts were doomed. They could have avoided a hidden disaster.
Had the committee charged with creating a new name involved the vanguard of the association and brought them along during the planning stage, at minimum, the new name would have stood a greater chance of becoming implemented successfully. At worse, the committee would have known that the new name was in trouble. Losses could have been averted at an earlier point and resources could have been spared.
The challenge a negotiator faces when employing secrecy is making sure the right people are involved. If they’re not involved, hidden disasters may lie in wait.
Always take into consideration who might be involved in a negotiation even if they’re not physically or visually involved in it. Seek those individuals that might have a stake in the outcome of the negotiation no matter how small you think their stake might be. There’ll be times when you won’t know the power source behind some people’s means – that’s something else to consider. There’ll also be times when smaller stakeholders will combine forces, which will present a more powerful force for you to contend with.
Getting the right buy-in is a vital component of every negotiation – even when it’s just you and the other negotiator. Doing so when you have multiple participants is even more vital to the negotiation’s success. Therefore, when you assess the impact of the buy-in component during your negotiation planning stage, consider its impact thoroughly … and everything will be right with the world.
“Negotiator – Negotiate Better – Know How To Use Words Right”
People’s thoughts give life to the words they use to influence others. Thus, their words move people to actions. As a negotiator, to negotiate better, know how to use words right.
Using His Words:
When engaged in a negotiation, listen to the words used by the other negotiator and the way he uses those words. As an example, he makes the statement, “I only want to address one thing at a time.” Later in the negotiation, if he asks you to address multiple items/situations simultaneously, you can state, “I only want to address one thing at a time.” Citing his own words as justification for your actions will psychologically put him into a state of reflection. Note his body language to discern the effect that your words have on him (e.g. leans back resting towards one side of his body, laying a pen/pencil down/aside, looking up into the air). Any such signals will serve as validation that he’s taking your words into his thought process.
Emphasized and Changing Words:
During a negotiation, the opposing negotiator will emphasize certain words. Listen for them. Through his action, he’s denoting the importance that word has in his thought process. You can use that insight to reposition your negotiation efforts to fit the altering situation based on the way he’s thinking.
As an example, if he begins a statement by saying, “Weeee, I think I can do it.” Note the word choice change from ‘we’ to ‘I’. Plus, note how he drew ‘weeee’ out. While making that change, he was likely considering to what degree he’d have to rely on others. By changing his words, he displayed his belief that he has greater control over producing the outcome in question. That display gives you insight into where he believes his abilities lie in that situation. You can clone it by posing similar questions to move him in the direction of your needs throughout the negotiation. That insight will also allow you to cite his pride of authority and position him as such. Then, if you reach a point of decision and he refers to his need to consult others, remind him of what he’s implied about his authority. Even if he states the situation at hand is above his authority, you will have uncovered his limits.
People say a lot through the words they don’t use. Thus, what’s not said can be more important than what’s said. It too gives insight into their thoughts.
During a negotiation, closely observe the word choice used by the other negotiator to convey his thoughts and offers. Consider what he’s not saying and why he may not be using specific words. If you sense he’s attempting to prevent you from uncovering something, ask him about it. Use the words that you believe he’s not saying and observe his reaction. If his reaction is one of dismissiveness, pay attention. You may have stumbled upon a point that requires greater probing.
When people hesitate, pause, or alter their words, they’re giving you insight into their shifting mindset. That shift represents a change in their thinking. If you’re astute, you’ll observe the cause of that action and use it to advantage the negotiation.
From the way you use words to convey your offers, to the way you use the opposing negotiator’s words to shape his perspective, if you use words right in a negotiation you’ll experience greater negotiation outcomes … and everything will be right with the world.