No Questions?

One of the most important lessons I learned during my training with Jim Camp, was the importance of asking questions. Contrary to having all the answers and knowing all the moves, it is the way a skilled negotiator uses questions that ultimately steers the course. Without any doubt, the inability to ask good questions is a serious gap in your negotiation skill set.

Asking questions is an art, but can be learned just as science. How you construct your questions is important and will provide you insight. Whilst this is just the tip of the iceberg in negotiation (you first have to start with a mission & purpose, then blank slate) – it is the one that will produce the most informative results.

Remember, you should be asking open ended questions, not ones that will provide a single answer with a yes, no or maybe. Usually, these are what we call verb-led questions such as “Is this….”, “Can you…”, “Do you need….” etc.

What you want to be asking are, for lack of a better word, interrogative questions. Such questions contain the following:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How
  • Which
  • Why

The best question I’ve used when negotiation is ask… “what would you like me to do?” – this is a simple question. Think for a second who is in control of the question, the listener or the person talking? Mind you, the tone of your voice will also play a part when you ask these questions… and whatever you do, don’t become a mechanical questioner, ticking off a checklist… ask, then shut up and listen. Take notes if you have to!