Questioning Techniques in Negotiation and Selling

When you are in a sales situation or a negotiation, the power of questions should not be underestimated.  Questions will help you move the other person through problems, and in many cases they will answer the negotiation challenge themselves.

The questioning process is called the ‘Freudian Slip’ and is used by many good salespeople.  It operates on the premise that most people want to reach an agreement, and if you ask them enough questions, they will tell you the answer to the problem and perhaps even give themselves a solution.

It should be said that the questions that you ask should be ‘open’ and not ‘closed’ questions.  You can use the words like:

  • How will you
  • What will you
  • When would you
  • Would you
  • Should you

The one word that you cannot use is ‘Why’, and the question content that follows it.  The reason being is that it is a challenging approach that threatens the conversation flow; it is too probing and threatening.  The use of ‘Why’ is judgemental and can break the trust that you are creating in the conversation.

When you ask the right questions you get answers that can help you and the client move to a solution.  In most cases a sale is not made by you talking, rather it is made by you listening to the answers that you get.

One More Idea

As you ask the prospect or client questions, the answers that you get should be drilled down into and questioned further.  This has two clear benefits:

  • It shows the client or customer that you really are listening and are interested in what they have to say
  • It shows the client that you really understand the complete issue and want all the facts to help their position or negotiation

In some complex sales situations it pays dividends if you take notes during the comments of the other person.  The notes can be used as a reference point to further discussion, however the great advantage that the note taking process offers is that it gives you time to think before you respond.

In any sales negotiation or client presentation, do not do all of the talking.  Give the client lots of opportunities to say things and respond to your ideas and recommendations.  As a general rule, you should talk less and they should talk more.  Even though you are doing a ‘presentation’, the process can be very connecting and create a two way conversation.  Ask the client for comments as you proceed and get their opinion on key matters.  Build the communication at every opportunity.

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Questioning Tips for Top Negotiators and Salespeople

In selling or negotiating anything, it is really important to get to the facts and understand the other party.  When you do this well, you can match your dialogue and your ideas to the right outcome.  Your questioning techniques are really important.

There are 3 basic types of questions or probes that can be used in negotiation; they should be used in balance to the discussion on the product or service.  You should select the right type of questions with care because they will have direct impact on the response of the other party.  Here are those question or response types:

  1. Open Questions – this type of question will require a factual and detailed answer.  For example, ‘How do you see this tractor being used in your current harvesting program?’
  2. Closed Questions – this process is suitable when you want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.  For example, ‘Can you see this tractor helping your harvesting program this year?’
  3. Extended Statement – this is a process of going further into a subject or discussion of the other party. For example, ‘Please tell me how the tractor will be used in your harvesting program.’

It is interesting to note that many salespeople do not use the third example above much at all.  They do not probe deep enough into the issue or deal.  Lack of information will make it harder to get a result or positive outcome.  The open or closed question can always lead to the ‘extended statement’.  It takes practice but the extra time spent in finding out all of the facts will always help you with your negotiation.

The more that you can move the discussion into the subject and need, the easier it is to understand exactly what they require and create agreement with the other party.  The real facts of the matter will always help you in any negotiation; for that reason, remember that the negotiation is about them and not about you.

Here are some good question starters that you can use at any time with clients and customers:

  • Tell me
  • Couldn’t we?
  • Shouldn’t we
  • Didn’t you?
  • Don’t you?
  • Haven’t they?
  • Doesn’t it?
  • Hasn’t he?
  • Isn’t it?

These statements will help you tie down the detail and move to a solution for the customer. They say that practice makes perfect, and that is certainly the case in professional selling and negotiation.  Asking questions and getting closer to the requirements of the customer will always help you through the negotiation with greater efficiency.

Asking the right questions is a form of customer qualification.  It pays to have a checklist designed for your product or service so you can really get to the important points quickly and effectively.

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