Advancing Negotiations with Strategic Questions

“He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Chinese Proverb

In business negotiations, the types of questions you ask can significantly influence the outcome. Asking open-ended questions that start with ‘how’ or ‘what’ is a strategy that can lead to more meaningful and productive discussions.

These questions encourage the other party to provide detailed answers and often reveal more about their needs, constraints, and priorities. For instance, instead of asking a yes-or-no question like, “Do you agree with this term?”, ask a more open-ended question such as, “How does this term align with your objectives?” This style of questioning not only helps you gather more information but also demonstrates your interest in understanding their position.

In your next negotiation, try to incorporate ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions. This approach can shift the conversation from a confrontational stance to a collaborative problem-solving session. For example, asking, “What are the main challenges you foresee with this agreement?” can provide insights into their concerns and help you tailor your proposal more effectively.

Action Step: Focus on asking open-ended questions in your next business meeting. Pay attention to the responses, as they can offer valuable insights into the other party’s thought process and priorities.

By utilizing ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions, you can steer negotiations in a more constructive and collaborative direction. This approach not only aids in reaching agreements but also helps in building stronger, more transparent business relationships.

To learn more about improving your negotiation skills, including the strategic use of questions, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.

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