© Illustration by Ben Risbeck / Concept by Brian Buck
It never fails… I see smart, intelligent negotiators who have devoted lots of effort to prepare for their negotiation. They know their positions and limits. They’ve crafted a clever strategy. They have contingency plans. They’ve prepared their teams to work together. They know what they can concede and under what conditions they will concede them. But yet they fail to prepare for that one thing that derails all of their preparation…
The hard question. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen negotiations get derailed by hard questions like…
- “What’s your profit margin?”
- “Why is your price so high?”
- “What discount can you give me?”
- “What’s your selection criteria?”
All of the above and many others are hard to answer when you haven’t prepared for them. When they are asked and you don’t have a prepared answer you will potentially say things that you didn’t intend to say. Share information you didn’t really want to share. Or worse yet, you start saying things that will alter the trajectory of your negotiation and put you in a position of weakness.
Be prepared! You already know the hard question the opposition could ask. It’s that bit of information that makes you uncomfortable and that you are more than likely trying desperately to protect. So prepare an answer and don’t get surprised. Here are a few tips for preparing for the hard questions:
- Opposition brainstorm. As you prepare, make a list of all the tough questions that can be asked. Some of these questions could be asked by any of your opposition and some are specific to just that opposition. Keep a record of them so you can refer to them for future negotiations.
- Find out why the answer is important. We assume that when someone asks about our profit because, logically, they are looking for a price discount. Before you answer, find out why they want to know. For instance if they are telling you that you are priced higher than the competition, then maybe there’s no reason to answer the profit question if it’s just a matter of price matching. Check before you answer.
- Weak arguments dilute strong ones. Go with your strongest argument and shut up! Many people make the mistake of stating their strong argument and then continuing to provide more and more explanation. All the while, diluting their best answer. Just state your response and move on.
Don’t get caught flat-footed and prepare for your tough questions.
Let us help you prepare!
Preparing for a negotiation is critical to ensuring a good outcome. Let our professionals help you and your team prepare for your negotiation. We’ll not only help you uncover all the difficult questions you may need to answer but we’ll also help you prepare a solid winning strategy.
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