Good Negotiators Know The Power Of “What If?”

Sometimes The Simplest Questions Are The Most Powerful
Sometimes The Simplest Questions Are The Most Powerful

How are your mind reading skills? Not so good? Dang – just imagine how handy that would come in during your next sales negotiation. You could just close your eyes and you’d be able to see what the other side of the table was thinking. I can’t help you get magical powers, but I might be able to do something that’s pretty close…

It turns out that asking the right questions is a powerful way to get information from the other side of the table. One question that can yield a great deal of information is the humble “what it”. You just need to know how to use it correctly…

Why Use “What If”?

Before taking the time to learn a new sales negotiating technique, we always have to take a moment and ask ourselves why we are bothering. When any negotiation starts, the other side has knowledge that we don’t have. What we’d like to be able to do is to find out what they know.

This is where the “what if” technique comes into play. The more that we can find out about things that the other side of the table knows about, the better off we’ll be.

The other reason that negotiators like to use the “what if” technique is because it has a habit of opening doors for us during a negotiation. By making what if proposals to the other side we force them to react. Based on how they react, we may discover where we have some room to take the negotiations.

How To Use “What If”?

Although using the “what if” technique is pretty much as simple as it sounds – just ask the question, there is more to it than that. Before asking the question you have to be ready for the answer that you’re going to get.

As an example, if you were negotiating with someone to purchase ball bearings then you might ask them for a quote for 10,000 ball bearings. At the same time you might also ask them for a quote for 5,000 and 15,000 ball bearings.

Effectively you are asking them “what if I bought more or less than I’m planning on”. You’ll get three different price quotes back and this shouldreveal a great deal of informationabout how the other side goes about pricing their products


As you start to use “what if” questions during a negotiation, you indicate to the other side that you may have some flexibility and you are trying to see if they have some flexibility also. As they respond, you’ll gain more information about how they are seeing the world and once you have this information then you’ll be able to better find a way to make a deal happen.

What All Of This Means For You

Sometimes the simplest negotiating techniques are the best. The “what if” technique is so simple that it can easily be overlooked.

Asking “what if” is an effective technique that can uncover information that would otherwise remain hidden. Additionally, it can reveal to both sides of the table additional ways for them to do business that neither may have been aware of before.

Success in negotiating means that you have the ability to discover ways to reach a deal with the other side of the table even when others can’t find a way. Using the simple technique of asking “what if” at the right time and then taking the time to listen to what the other side has to say will allow you to close more deals and close them quicker!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What types of trade-offs do you think that asking “what if” can best uncover?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you are negotiating with the other side of the table, you want them to agree to your deal. In order to make this happen, you have to find a way to motivate them to “buy” what you are selling. One of the most powerful ways to make this happen is to offer them a bargain…