- An effective tool to use during the Exchange Stage – and throughout Bargaining – is called the "Probe."
- The Negotiator's Probe is an open-ended question that gets the other side to reveal information, move, explore options and generate creativity.
- Probes should be carefully constructed, succinct and on-point.
- Probing questions include the "who, what, when, why, where and how" questions.
- Probing shows concern for the other side's interests, and has the beneficial side effect of building trust.
- You know a Probe is effective when it isolates real areas of concern.
- When Probing you must be an active listener. Listening carefully to the answers given after a Probe can reveal hidden fears and objections. It is important to be aware of these early in the process.
- Probing builds rapport and strengthens trust.
To ensure you are more collaborative and less confrontational with your questioning, see yourself using probing to:
- Challenge yourself to look at solutions from a different point of view
- Stay in the state of curiosity longer to sort out where others are coming from
- Probe deeper into motivations, perspectives, real interests, experiences
- Bring the unspeakable question to the surface
- Challenge the status quo to move the conversation to the next level
- Create mutually beneficial options
- Build on what is being said and take it one or two steps further
- Engage with people at a deeper level
Probing takes place predominantly in the Exchange Stage and in the Bargaining Stage. This chart shows the different uses of the Negotiator's Probe in these stages:
|Probing in Information Exchange
|Probing in Bargaining
|Uncovers hidden fears and objections so you can tackle them before emotions erupt
Logic makes you think – emotions make you act; We decide based on emotions and logically defend a decision later
|Opens up opportunities for creative concessions
|Allows you to assess likeability, competency, and trustworthiness of the other side
|Informs your concession pattern
|Demonstrates authenticity – shows that you
- Are sincerely interested in understanding the other side’s needs and satisfying them
- Are fully engaged and willing to put in the effort to reach agreement
- Have done your homework and are not to be fooled
|Can be in the form of a Crunch – response to an offer that does not counter the offer, but still gets other side to move off the current position and make a concession
|Discovers the other side’s interests
|Confirms or denies assumptions
|Answers your “Don’t Knows,” including who from their side has authority to commit or approve
|Tests your assumptions and allows you to correct theirs
|Creates opportunities for trades that get you closer to your MDO
|Makes clear whether interests and goals are aligned
|Creates value (solutions address interests)
|Informs any adjustments to your Most Desired Outcome, Goal and Least Acceptable Alternative
|Discover value (options become apparent)