Questions are invaluable in negotiating. But the trouble is, most of us don't think of the best questions until after the session is over. I used to think of my best questions - while on my way back to the office or on the way home. You know how it goes, "Dang! I should have asked about their whatchamacallit!"
I found that my question-asking ability was improved when I followed these few simple tips:
Have a brainstorming question-asking session among your own people. They'll raise some interesting questions of their own.
Use every early contact as a opportunity to ask questions. The best answers are the ones asked long before the negotiations - not at the table.
Have the courage to ask dumb questions. There are no such things.
Ask questions that pry into the other party's affairs. If it's privileged information, make them say so.
Ask the same question to several different people, especially people other than the sales rep. You'll get different perspectives.
Ask questions for which you already know the answer. They can help you calibrate the credibility of the other party.
Be persistent in your questioning. Some people are experts at dancing around questions.
And finally, the biggest tip of all;
Get your questions ready in advance. Few of us are bright enough to think fast on our feet.
Remember that every question and answer exchange is a negotiation in its own way. Every question has the character of a demand and every answer is a concession. The main thing is that people who ask questions - get answers.
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