Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers

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Joanna Shea has almost 20 years of experience in the corporate world working on major acquisitions and divestments. Three years ago, she branched out and joined the Negotiations Collective. The Negotiations Collective blends the corporate world and behavioral psychology.

Among many other specialties, the Negotiations Collective offers training on navigating conflict within negotiations. Joanna and her team members (Calvin Chrustie, Scott Tillema, and Melissa Fortunato) bring a breadth of experience to the table.

So how do they handle conflict in a negotiation? Joanna starts with their approach to negotiation:

Negotiation is a three-legged stool

Joanna points out that negotiation has three legs that it stands on:

  1. Strategic networking: If you don’t know the targeted “who’s,” you’re never going to get your “what.”
  2. Conflict resolution: You need to know how to strategically engage in and resolve conflict.
  3. Negotiation skills: This is where you churn out who wants what, where’s the value, what are the needs, etc.

Joanna points out that conflict is simply two or more differing opinions. She believes that conflict is where the “good stuff” sits. Conflict allows you to be innovative.

How to deal with conflict in a negotiation

You need to understand why someone says no and what’s going on behind the rejection of a proposal. You need to ask questions to uncover why someone wants—or doesn’t want—what you have to offer. Then you can help meet those needs. So how do you ask better questions?

Ask better questions—then listen

What are the most powerful types of questions to ask if someone says no? First, you have to establish rapport and build a comfort level. Then ask open-ended questions. It can be that simple.

  • Who’s going to pull the lever?
  • Who has influence?
  • Who’s responsible?
  • Who’s accountable?
  • Who’s the support role?
  • Who do you need to consult?
  • Who needs to be informed?

You have to build these out.

You can be collaborative to help each other be successful. But it doesn’t mean giving away everything. Everyone wants to be a collaborator. But people don’t always have enough time to unearth everything. Collaboration is a great space when you’re mindful of time. If time is a factor in negotiation, you have to allow room for compromise.

There are many ways to unearth value, but people run out of time to do it. They’re so busy collaborating that someone isn’t willing to push. At some point, you have to make a decision. Many negotiations fail when time isn’t managed appropriately.

So when you’re in a room, and people start to disclose, listen. When you’re starting to collect data and are face-to-face with the key negotiator on the other side, listen.

Then, listen to episode #307 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast to learn more from negotiation expert Joanna Shea!