Negotiation: What Questions Are You Asking? And Why?

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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 coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Negotiation: Action Strategies

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Few want to play a game they have no chance of winning, and the same concept holds true for negotiating. Most people dread situations that require them to negotiate for a salary or even a purchase; hence, the opportunity for the likes of Saturn, the car manufacturer, to successfully enter the car market by offering a firm sticker price.

For those who find themselves unable to avoid negotiation, don’t fret, because you can improve their negotiation skills—perhaps to the point you believe negotiating is fun. I share some strategies for when you find yourself in the thick of it.

Key Negotiation Strategies

In the business world, negotiation is about finding common ground that is acceptable to both parties. I have a lawyer friend who once said, “A good deal is when both parties strike a deal in which each is just mildly disgruntled with the outcome.” I interpreted this to mean both got most of what they wanted but wished they’d gotten more. If you want to strike a deal and get more, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Check your bravado and intelligence at the door. This is code for play dumb, so the other party underestimates you and comes to the negotiating table less prepared. Have you read Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success?
  2. Always agree with people. Agreement always keeps the negotiation moving and allows you the opportunity to redirect the discussion toward what you want. For example, you are a new car salesman and have explicit instructions not to sell a car for less than $30,000. You have an interested buyer who tells you he can’t pay a penny more than $28,000. What do you say? Instead of responding, “Sorry, but I couldn’t possibly sell it for less than $30,000,” you might consider saying, “Since you are interested in the car, I’m motivated to find a way to get you into the car today at a price you are comfortable and can afford.” This can be followed with a series of questions that allows one to understand why the limit and how to work around it with other options such as lease, car trade-in, extended payment terms, etc. You want to avoid putting the other party on the defensive.
  3. Flinch at the first offer. When people are put into the position of making the first offer, they are attuned to watch for a reaction as a means of gauging whether their offer was good or not so good. Regardless of whether the offer meets your expectations, make sure you flinch—indicating that it is far from what you expected. This signal of your body language will notify the other party he or she must come lower if you’re going to make a deal.
  4. Position yourself to account to a higher authority. Most salespeople want permission to negotiate a deal from beginning to end without having to check back with management. Although you may have the skills to negotiate the best deal, you shouldn’t underestimate the value in saying, “I’ll have to go back and check with my manager. I’m not sure he’ll agree with it, but I will fight for you.” Indicating you need to check in with leadership puts more pressure on the other party to concede and allows you to play the infamous good cop/bad. Taking a pause also helps you gain perspective before continuing the negotiations.

I know some people who seem to negotiate everything. Negotiation is not for every situation. As a servant leader, I frequently give away what I could have easily negotiated. I think of it as an offering of good will and relationship building. Because these strategies are powerful, the best leaders know when to hold them and when to fold them.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. 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 coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com