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Why Did You Ask Me That?

Published: Sep 04 , 2018
Author: 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.

Not only have we been teaching our proven negotiating skills for over 40 years, we've also been advising our clients on must win deals. Our team of skilled negotiators will help your team get ready for that critical negotiation and be there every step of the way to guide and coach.

Talk to one of our experts today.



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About the author:

Brian Buck
Sure, we could whip up a snappy bio about Brian’s experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, and Fortune 500 executive. While we’re at it, we could go on for an afternoon about his 20 years in marketing and advertising, developing brilliant consumer-engagement strategies for the likes of Google, Amazon, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Microsoft, and Sony. But knowing Brian, he’d rather we not. Instead, he’d likely ask us to focus on something else — namely, other people ...

Read more about Brian Buck

More posts by Brian Buck

Latest Blog:

Be Angry. Then Do This . . .

I can’t wait for the New Year to tell you all about a personal negotiation I was just in that sent my blood boiling! The deal isn’t completely done yet, so I don’t want to jinx it. (In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not superstitious — that would be bad luck.) However, in this deal, something happened that triggered an immediate and angry response. I bring it up because even as a highly trained and experienced negotiator, my emotion was getting the better of me. That is, until I did the following . . .

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