Nearly all of us have, at some time or another taken part in a meeting where, despite there being a fixed agenda everyone wades in with their own personal agenda and the subject of the question changes every minute. As a result issues are left buried, evasive answers are accepted and inconsistencies go unchallenged. The ideal situation in any meeting particularly in a business meeting is to focus on effective questioning.
Here are a few guidelines on using questions in negotiations:
1. Prepare your questions and prepare answers to theirs.
If you have had any negotiation skills training one of the most important things you will have been taught is to spend time working on your questions ahead of the meeting. Also brainstorm what they might ask you. Sometimes the latter can be the most important. Prepare for the ten worst questions you could ever possibly get. For more information just go here.
2. When asking your questions, think strategically, and drill down.
Think strategically about your questions. Prioritize the areas that you want to cover and apportion the time accordingly. Don’t get distracted.
Also, one question unlocks another. A good journalist knows that good interview involves a series of questions that drill down into the issue until you get the answer.
Finally, your string of questions needs to be efficient and effective. So prepare your string of drilling questions and see if you can be more efficient in using them. Will three questions strike the right balance of keeping them happy and getting to the issue? Are there some really good questions that can help unpack the issue or get round the problem?
3. Don’t be frightened of asking the same question again
So, you’ve asked a good question and they have not given a satisfactory answer. Ask the question again but in a different way. For example, you might have asked ‘Do you have any issues with our payment terms and conditions?’ You don’t get a proper answer so you ask it again, but this time you say, ‘Have you had a chance to look at our payment terms? Is there anything that makes you uncomfortable?’ And then a third time ‘What is your ideal situation regarding remuneration?’
If you use your questions like a stick to beat the other side, you won’t get anywhere. Don’t relentlessly pursue your agenda through your questions at the expense of being flexible. Listen to the answers and act accordingly.