Squeezing Out Interests of a Recalcitrant Negotiator
You might have experienced the situation:
You are finding yourself talking to a negotiation partner who you have had no chance to establish a trusting relationship with just yet. And, let´s face it, sometimes you never will get that chance. So, coming forward with open questions does not seem to get you anywhere close to where you want to go. You are finding yourself asking them questions like “What is it in my offer you like most?” only to have them ask you back “And what is the best offer you can make me?”
No matter how you seem to phrase your question, they don´t seem to come out with any useful information for you.
What is the actual problem here?
The biggest mistake you can do!
Of course you could just proceed with your argumentation, your product highlights and your offer. However, if you do have no clue about the needs and intentions of the other side, it is a matter of pure luck to hit the right spot if you offer now. So even if it might seem tempting to take a shortcut here and just put together a package with a “convincing” argument (which most people including your competitors do), I strongly advise you to hold back and exercise a little more patience. DO NOT present your best arguments just yet.
So, what can you do?
You do have 2 good alternatives here:
Option 1: Try the indirect track.
Since asking “why” does not produce any good answer, try asking “why not doing/assuming/trying this and that”. To the above mentioned counter question “And what is the best offer you can make me? you should propose one specific offer. Often they want to hear just a number, any number, and are not ready to go into details yet. But make sure they know about your (bad, but not catastrophic) assumptions and thus your option. Then ask “What would be wrong with assuming/doing it this way?”
Say: “OK, you are telling me you want to introduce a scheme in your company and want a quick rough estimate for my best offer? [short break, wait for a nod, “yes” or such].
Option 2: Find out how much he likes to criticize (you)
He might let you know “This is impossible also because we just invested a fortune in our new conference and congress system. The board will demand to know why we establish costly IT in several subsidiaries only to find out that travelling expenses continue to rise!”