I love seeing successful professionals at work: watching a great tennis player return an unwinnable shot, or a swimmer come from behind to win the greatest race of her life.
It’s the same as when in a tough negotiation someone asks a great question that unlocks value, breaks a deadlock or achieves a great outcome. In chapter 8 of my book, “The Creative Negotiator – 2nd Edition”, I examine the power of using questions rather than statements.
Why are great negotiators so successful? There are many reasons, but one of the key characteristics is they ask well-structured questions. Often in any B2B negotiation, successful negotiators focus on creating a conversation and not closing down a conversation with statements.
Many average negotiators prepare their responses, very few prepare their questions. So, in the bargaining phase of any B2B negotiation what makes a world-class negotiator? Under pressure, they can ask questions and not make statements. Questions keep you exploring options and alternatives; Statements make all sides too quickly take positions.
During the bargaining phase of the negotiation: ask more questions. Ask more questions because you are searching for ways to influence and persuade the other side that your options are viable enough to reach an agreement. When bargaining, too many negotiators try to open up the other side by making statements and then hoping that the other side will respond. But, statements normally don’t work. They offer the other side the opportunity to receive more information from you or to react emotionally to your statements.
Three reasons you should use questions instead of statements in the bargaining phase of the negotiation:
- Questions allow the other side to tell you about their needs and wants for the outcome of the negotiation. You’ll find out, in far greater detail, what they want to achieve from the negotiation.
- Questions encourage the other side to open up. Once the other side begins to share their opinions and feelings, they are starting to invest in the process. The process moves from a discussion to a way of reaching an agreement.
- Questions used skillfully, give you a far better chance of persuading someone than by making emotive statements.
The bargaining phase of the negotiation is where concessions are offered, traded and agreed. Using questions will ensure the process works successfully for you. Using questions instead of statements actively involves the other side. Once that happens, agreement is close.
Remember questions create power and control, statements create walls that close in any negotiation, and your success depends on the power of your questions.