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How and The Five W's

I get tips on effective negotiation from all sorts of places. Take for example one that my wife gave me. When she was a Journalist, she was always interviewing people and trying to get them to elaborate on the subject she's going to write about. She was trained in how to learn by questioning and what questions to ask. And it's a very simple technique.

The technique is to begin each question with one of these words - Who, What, When, Where, Why or How.

Why does the method work?

Simply because it is impossible to respond to any question that begins with one of those words without elaborating. The real magic is that people, once started, usually like to keep talking. They not only answer the question, but usually volunteer more than they're asked.

How will this technique benefit you in your organization?

It helps by giving you control of the discussion and by providing you with more information than the supplier would normally have given you.

As an example, some time ago I was responsible for negotiating a contract for a purchasing program. One of the questions that I asked the supplier was, "Will your program let me issue multiple line purchase orders?" Guess what his answer was. That's right, "Yes!" No more, no less. He then went on to his standard presentation on the wonders of his product. I lost control and got only the information I asked for. But when I got a break during his discourse, I jumped in with, "How will your program let me issue multiple line purchase orders?" Boy, then he sure opened up. I then followed up with, "Who are current users of your software that issue multi-line PO's?"

Skeptical? Try it. You'll be surprised at the results. Even in social situations, this technique will always break the ice with a stranger and lead to genuine communication.

Most importantly though, in negotiating with suppliers, this technique will gather useful facts and better information. It will also uncover problem areas and start them on the road to solutions.

I know, it still sounds silly and simplistic, but it really works. And that leaves me with just one more question:

How will you benefit from this tip?

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