Negotiation: What Questions Are You Asking? And Why?


I’m a business, sales, and leadership coach, so I ask a lot of questions. Why? Because it’s my profession, and I get paid to ask questions. In all seriousness, I find people spend more time assuming, telling, and trying to convince as opposed to asking the right questions. You might ask, “Would you tell me more?” If so, you’re now getting the hang of it.

What do questions have to do with good negotiating? Their value is delivered in the answers, the insights and information, the other person shares that helps your negotiation strategy.

What are good questions to ask? There are different types appropriate for different stages of the negotiating process. General open-ended questions give you valuable information, because they allow the other party to express his or her opinions.

  1. What’s been your experience with…[insert product, service, supplier, etc.]?
  2. What do you think of…?
  3. How do you feel about…?

Depending on the answers, you may follow with more direct questions to pinpoint specific information such as dates, money, etc. These questions may include:

  1. Who is involved in the decision-making process?
  2. When will the decision be made?
  3. What budget range did you have for this project?

The conversation can be brought full circle when you use paraphrasing questions that help ensure agreement in your understanding.

  1. You believe you could decide by [insert date], if I provide the product specifications and price by [insert date]?
  2. You could issue a purchase order, if our price proposal was in the [insert price range]?
  3. You believe the product will work in this application, if we can get it to [insert performance criteria]?

Questions are powerful tools to help the negotiating process move forward. I’ve observed some salespeople make a pitch, pause, and wait for the customer to say something without a question even being asked.

If asking questions is not one of your refined skills or in your comfort zone, try practicing in other areas of your life and let it carry over into your work. Go to a party, introduce yourself to people you don’t know, and make a point to ask questions. Use the 80/20 rule. Use 80% of your words for asking questions and only 20% for answering someone else’s questions.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at or by visiting her website at

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