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Your Weekly Walkaway - Stop talking and start asking the right questions...
The Weekly Walkway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Newsletter Issue No. 17 (20th January 2023)
What to expect?
Quote of the Week - “The beckoning vacuum of someone who simply listens without reaction or judgement.”
Tactic of the Week - Silence is golden!
Thought of the Week - "Would you please just 'SHUT UP' !!" Stop talking and start asking the right questions...
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“The beckoning vacuum of someone who simply listens without reaction or judgement. Who extracts your words and your secrets from you without doing anything at all.”
“Don’t listen to the person who has the answers. Listen to the person who has the questions.”
TACTIC OF THE WEEK
Silence is Golden!
Silence is like that awkward moment at a party when no one knows what to say, but unlike a party, in a negotiation, it can be golden. Embrace the silence and let it work in your favour. Make the other party squirm with discomfort; they might just spill some valuable information.
Silence is also a powerful tool to help control the pace of the conversation and create the illusion of control. In negotiation, it's important to take the time to think and consider the other party's position and responses. By using silence strategically, you can signal that you are in control of the conversation and make the other party feel more uncomfortable, which can lead to them revealing more information or making concessions.
Use silence to your advantage, and in the game of negotiation, being comfortable with being uncomfortable is key.
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
"Would you please just 'SHUT UP' !!" Stop talking and start asking the right questions...
Negotiations can be full of awkward silences like tumbleweed rolling by us when the wrong question is asked at the wrong time. But fear not, my friends, because asking the right questions at the right time can help you avoid those awkward silences, gather valuable information, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.
But let's be real; sometimes, things can get a little bit comical when it comes to questioning. For example, there's the classic "good cop, bad cop" routine where one negotiator plays the role of the tough, no-nonsense interrogator while the other is the friendly, approachable one. This can be a powerful tool, but it can also backfire if the other party sees right through the act. There is also the "blunt force" approach, where the negotiator comes out all guns blazing, asking tough questions and making demands. Whilst this can be effective in some situations, it can also be seen as overly arrogant and maybe even aggressive and turn the other party off.
On the flip side, there are plenty of examples of ‘questioning’ done right. Questioning is a powerful tool for building trust and understanding, as it shows that the negotiator is truly listening and trying to understand the other party's perspective.
Let's start with open questions, questions that start with Who? What? When? How? Where? & Why? Sometimes referred to as Kipling’s six honest serving men.
These are like the "how are you?" and are one of the most powerful tools in a negotiator's arsenal. They're a great way to start a conversation by opening up to the other party; the questions beg to be answered in a full, information-providing way.
Open questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" and require the other party to provide more detailed information. Examples of open questions include;
"What are your organisation's goals for this project?" and "Where are your key issues?" and “How are you planning to manage these issues?” and even “Why is this issue important to you?”
Open questions can gather a wide range of information, leading to a better understanding of the other party's perspective, goals and issues. Understanding these can help you tailor your negotiation tactics & strategy to address their specific concerns and meet their objectives.
For example, if your goal is to close a deal, and the other party's main concern is price, you can use open questions to gather information about their budget and find ways to address their price concerns.
Another advantage of using open questions is that they can help to build rapport with the other party. They show that you are genuinely interested in their perspective and are willing to listen to their concerns. This can help to establish trust and create a more positive and productive negotiation environment.
It's also important to note that open questions are not enough on their own. Having opened up the other party and gained the information you require, you need to remain in control of the questioning and start filtering down the information as needed. Therefore open questions should be used in conjunction with other types of questions, such as probing, funnelling, leading, and hypothetical, to name a few. This way, you can comprehensively understand the other party's position and the key issues at play.
So let's discuss the other questions…
Probing questions are like the "so, what's new?" of negotiation.
They're used to dig deeper into a specific topic or issue and uncover the juicy details. For example;
"What specific challenges have you encountered in the past when working with similar projects?"
This type of probing question can help you identify potential roadblocks and find ways to overcome them.
Funnelling questions are like the "how was your day?" of negotiation.
They start with broad, open-ended questions and gradually become more specific. For example
Open question: "Can you tell me about your organisation's goals for this project?" followed by…
Probing question: "What specific challenges have you encountered in the past when working with similar projects?" followed by…
Funnelling question: "What specific steps have you taken in the past to overcome those challenges?".
By using a range of question styles, we can drill down on important information and answers.
Leading questions are like the "have you been working out?" of negotiation.
Leading questions elicit a specific response or guide the other party towards a specific conclusion. For example;
"Don't you agree that our proposal is the best option for your organisation?"
This leading question tries to guide the other party to agree with the proposal. Leading questions can help guide the conversation towards a desired outcome, but it's essential to use them tactfully and be aware of their potential to influence the other party's decision.
Hypothetical questions are like the "what if we won the lottery?" of negotiation.
They're used to explore potential outcomes or scenarios. For example;
"What would happen if we were unable to agree on a price?"
A hypothetical question that can help test the waters. These types of questions can help identify potential issues and find creative solutions. They are also great for putting something on the negotiating table without commitment; for example;
“if we moved our payment terms, would that help move the deal forward?”
Rhetorical questions are like the "why is the sky blue?" of negotiation.
They're not meant to be answered but rather to make the other party think about a specific issue or idea. For example;
"How can we expect to achieve our goals if we don't have the support of our key stakeholders?"
This rhetorical question highlights the importance of stakeholder buy-in. Rhetorical questions can be used to make a point or create emphasis.
You have the right to be wrong in negotiation, so feel free to make assumptions.
Stating assumptions or asking ‘assumptive’ questions in a negotiation is appropriate to test the negotiator's understanding and knowledge of the situation.
Stating assumptions can help to identify any misunderstandings or areas of confusion that need to be addressed.
Additionally, making assumptions can be a valuable technique for uncovering new information and gaining insight into the other party's perspective. For example, a supplier might say;
“We know the current economic climate is putting increased pressure on you; your internal negotiations with stakeholders must be very stressful”...
Perhaps the most effective questioning technique of all is simply to ask the question and then "shut up and listen" aka Active Listening.
Sometimes the best thing a negotiator can do is simply be quiet and let the other party talk. By listening carefully and attentively, the negotiator can learn much about the other party's needs, concerns, and motivations.
By actively listening, negotiators can identify critical issues, build rapport, and adjust their questioning and communication style accordingly.
Active listening involves paying attention to the other party's words, body language, and tone of voice and responding appropriately, for example repeating back/summarising what you have heard. This can only be done if you have actively listened in the first place.
We all ask questions in negotiations and meetings but perhaps you’re not making the most of the opportunity.
"Would you please just 'SHUT UP' !!" Stop talking and start asking the right questions...
Asking the right, effective questions and making the most of the answers is a different level of skill and effort. By blending the different types of questions out there, such as open, closed, funnelling, hypothetical, etc. We can keep the other party engaged whilst harvesting the information we require.
So next time you're in a negotiation, remember to ask the right questions, listen actively, and maybe even add a little bit of humour to lighten the mood because no one wants a tumbleweed rolling between them in the middle of a deal.
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