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Volume V, Number 6 • June/July 2012 • Archive of Past Issues
An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association
Written by Linda B. Bulmash

This Month's Topic:

If You Ask the Right Question, You Can Build Your Success

Every time you negotiate, you are selling someone on your version of reality and of the best deal. Negotiation is the art of reaching an agreement through a conversation that brings you closer together rather than further apart.

Wouldn't you agree that if you can reduce your counterpart's defensiveness, you are more likely to reach agreement? Studies have shown one of the best ways to do this is to ask questions in a way that if you can get them to agree on a bunch of little things first, they will move closer to agreeing on the big issue. And once they move closer to agreeing on the big issue, it follows that you will close the deal on better terms for you, doesn't it?

Wouldn't you like to have a tried and true method to accomplish the little "yes's" before trying for the big "yes" that closes the deal?

Do you see the pattern building for success? Are all these questions annoying you? And that is the other secret: too many questions are as annoying and irritating as the hard sell and arguing.

So here are a few simple rules to follow:

1. Remember, if you say it, they probably will not believe it, BUT if they say it, they will think it is true.

2. Begin by never assuming you know what they want and always showing curiosity and a willingness to learn more.

3. Most questions should be open-ended and for information gathering purposes which will help you learn more about your counterpart and build some rapport.

4. After each answer, remember to practice active listening by repeating back to them what you think you have heard and then ask if you are correct (the first of many yeses) and will show that you are actually listening to/interested in them.

5. If they ask for something, ask "Why is it important to you?" "What do you hope to achieve by getting it?" and repeat the active listening process again and get that "yes".

6. Sometimes respond with a question to their question and then ask "Wouldn't it be great if we could create a deal that would make that happen for you? How do you see that happening?" etc…

7. Once you have built rapport and gathered enough information, make a statement they would be foolish to disagree with and use a "tie down" statement at the beginning or at the end: "Don't you agree …?" "…isn't that right?" and get more yeses.

8. Vary the placement of the questions and the "tie down" statements so you are not obvious or irritating.

9. Turn possible disagreements on the small points into a search for more information.

10. Get yeses to all the smaller issues first: who receives the money; timing of payment; delivery terms etc…

11. Close: "As I see it, the only issue left is …"which by now should be almost a no brainer.

LACBA member Linda B. Bulmash, Esq.,
writes the Negotiation Tips.
You can contact her at:
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