Questioning & Listening Skills – 9 Things Every Professional Must Know

Questioning and listening skills are very important for the professional negotiator. Having those two skills will give you the edge you need during negotiations.

For this article, we are going to learn the 9 things you need to learn about questioning and listening skills. First, we’ll discuss why they are important and how you can apply these skills to help you land great deals when negotiating.

After reading this article, you should have the necessary questioning and listening skills you need to assess and dominate every negotiation!

Why you Should Stay Quiet and Listen as Negotiator

Negotiators are sometimes known to be very noisy people. They are often avoided by the common folk, afraid that if they strike up a conversation with a negotiator, they’d probably end up getting convinced over something that they’d normally not agree on. Sure, negotiators are noisy but a true professional negotiator also stops and listens. This is one of the first things we at Procurement Tactics usually teach during our Negotiation Gamechanger course.

Negotiations are all about effective listening and questioning skills. Remember, the first rule of negotiations is to find out as much information as you possibly can. It’s not just with negotiations, but with the procurement process as well. 

So if you ever need to find more information from the other party during negotiations, it’s time to shut up and listen. Research shows that critical thinking often leads to effective questioning, so keeping your mouth shut and listening intently will definitely help you get information.

Editor's note:

The Negotiation Game Changer Certificate Program teaches you:

  • the skills needed to drive better, fact-based decisions that ultimately benefit both organizations and its employees.
  • a comprehensive analytics skill set that will enable you to achieve deals with results you have been dreaming of.

9 Steps to Effective Questioning and Listening

When it’s time to stay quiet and listen, you’ll need to fix your ears and understand what the other party is saying so you can catch information when needed. There are about 9 key steps on how to effectively listen and ask the right questions:

1. Listening through Body Movement

One can tell that you are interested in listening to what someone else has to say through body language. Sit quietly with your body facing the other party while doing so comfortably. Nod when asking questions that reaffirm or mirror what the other party said. Sit straight and look the other person in the eye. Do not ever slouch when the other party is trying to communicate with you.

2. Asking Short Questions

Short questions reveal short answers. And shorter answers help you ask more questions. While negotiations do take time, not beating around the bush also helps. With shorter questions, you can formulate more questions during the entire negotiation.

3. Asking Relevant Questions

Why ask questions that are not relevant to negotiations? It’s because the other party might be trying to stall you for time. This is one negotiation tactic that dubious negotiators sometimes use to trick you for information. When asking questions, ask those that are very important to the negotiations. Anything else should be ignored unless it is an all too important question.

4. Listening through Reaffirming the Statement / Question

Another sign that shows you were listening is through reaffirming what the other party just said. This is also called mirroring. You can use this when asking a question that needs clarification. 

5. Asking Open-Ended Questions

During negotiations, open-ended questions can be used for you to fish out more information. Doing so also helps in gauging the other party. For example, you can ask an open-ended question to gauge the mood of each member of the opposing party. Through this, you’ve already gained a lot of information.

6. Listening through No Distractions

Of course, the only way you can listen carefully is when there’s no one else speaking during negotiations. Don’t talk with your teammate while someone from the other party is speaking. Not only is it considered rude and unprofessional, but you might miss important information by not listening intently. Also, find a place where there are no distractions. A family restaurant is simply not the environment you need for an important negotiation!

7. Listening in Complete Silence

The only way to listen properly is to be quiet. Silence is your friend when someone else is speaking to you or to everyone. Everyone has their turn to talk, so do be quiet, listen in for anything interesting, and allow the other party or another member of your team to finish what they’re talking about.

8. Asking as a Habit

Effective communication skills always begin through habit. So, make it a habit to always ask questions before, during, and after negotiations. If you feel too uncomfortable asking questions, then you’re going to rely on someone else to do the questioning for you. And this is not often a good sign if you want to improve as a negotiator!

9. Asking a Question Without Interrupting

When someone is asking questions, please don’t interrupt. Let them ask the question directly and they’ll also do the same when it’s your team’s turn to ask questions.

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"Very useful course, many actionable strategies"

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