Questions are the heart of any negotiation. That’s nothing new. But, are you aware that the way you develop, deliver, and present your questions during a negotiation determines how strategically advantaged you’ll be throughout the negotiation?
If questions are posed strategically and used wisely, you’ll be able to negotiate more effectively. Thus, questions become a surgical tool that uncovers hidden information and allows the questioner to perform masterfully throughout the negotiation. Questions should not be posed haphazardly, but instead be used as another strategic tool in your negotiation toolbox.
When considering how to frame your question, think about what your question will suggest or convey, what information you seek, and how the question will position you in the negotiation. Keep in mind, a question can solicit a different response from what you expect and therefore you must be prepared to address an unexpected response. Therefore, if you construct your question appropriately, based on what you’re trying to accomplish in the negotiation and are prepared to address the unexpected, you’ll enhance your position, and/or prevent the other negotiator from progressing his agenda.
The following are a few ways in which you can use questions to benefit your negotiation position.
- If you wish to put the other negotiator in an uncomfortable position, ask questions that will address areas in which you sense he displays uneasiness. (Ex: You appear to have apprehensions about this point, do you?) From such a question, you can gain greater insight into objections the other negotiator may have.
- Statements can be used to set up questions and then the question can allow you to appear detached or lack knowledge about a particular matter. You might consider using such a ploy when negotiating with someone that positions himself as a know it all. ( Ex: I really don’t have a good grasp of this subject. Please tell me more about this matter?)
- Questions can be used to make you appear to be the victim. (Ex: Do you know how badly this makes me feel? You wouldn’t want to take advantage of me, would you?)
- You can convey a question in a nonverbal manner via a quizzical look. (Ex: The twisting of the head at a given moment, a skeptical look, and/or the clearing of the throat can be used in the negotiation to cast the appearance of doubt, while not openly stating such a position. If the other negotiator is observant, such action should cause him to ponder how you’re perceiving his proposal.)
- Questions can be used to emphasize a point or back the questioned negotiator closer to a corner. Be cautious about completely backing the other negotiator into a corner. People can become unpredictable when completely cornered. (Ex: That’s not your best offer, is it? You can do a little better than that, can’t you?)
In any negotiation, questions are used to position your perspective of the negotiation and gain greater insight into the goals of the other negotiator. When questions are used properly during a negotiation one can gather information quicker and allow the questioner to maintain more control of the negotiation. Once you adopt a negotiation strategy that takes into account the method by which you’ll utilize questions to assist your negotiation efforts, you’ll become more adept a maneuvering the negotiation in a positive direction… and everything will be right with the world. Remember, you’re always negotiating.
“The level of difficulty that you face in a negotiation is directly related to your ability to address it.” – Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator
The Negotiation Tips Are…
- If you use questions appropriately, you won’t have to question where you tread in the negotiation.
- If you want to give the other negotiator a compliment, do so when commenting about his question (e.g. That’s a good question). Such a comment, if perceived to be genuine, will tend to enhance the bonding process.
- The negotiator that controls the flow of questions controls the negotiation.