A Powerful Negotiating Tactic: Ask A Power Question: “Can you do any better?”
Asking this question is an important negotiating tactic, but you must ask it exactly right in order to get the maximum benefit. It is not “Is that the best you can do?” which sounds similar, but doesn’t work as well. It is: “Can you do any better?” This power question was contributed by Hervey Ross, who has made millions of dollars in the insurance business, and has generously given away millions to philanthropy. (His largest gifts have been to Worcester Academy and to Clark University. Clark University has conferred an honorary doctorate on Ross.) Ross says he routinely asks the question whenever he purchases anything, even at a department store with fixed prices. He says that often the sales person will tell him about an upcoming promotion on the item he’s interested in, or how he might be able to take advantage of a promotion that he would not have know about if he had not asked. We have tried this power phrase ourselves at whatyousay.com and found that it works about 80% of the time, which is a very good percentage. We did get responses such as, “I can’t do any better. That’s below my cost already.” But even then, we sometimes got an additional response: “I’ll tell you what, I can throw in….” We also discovered why “Can you do any better?” is preferable to “Is that the best you can do?” The difference is subtle but real. The first question is soft, not aggressive. It appeals to the person’s generosity, and asks him/her to be creative in possibly finding a way to make the deal work. The second question–“Is that the best you can do?–feels harsh, almost like a challenge. It implies that the seller might be holding back something. Here’s an important discovery. You can use it when you sell, too. One of our contributors is a professional speaker. Recently a trade association contacted him, but was unwilling to pay his usual speaking fee. The speaker wanted the gig, so he asked, “Can you do any better?” The trade association did not raise the fee, but did offer some perks–a couple of extra days at the resort where the meeting was to be held plus a feature story in its trade publication. We think this question is a good one for real estate transactions, but we haven’t tested it for real estate yet. So, try add this magic question to your negotiating skills–whether you are buying or selling. It’s a great negotiating tactic. Based on our experience, it will work for you about eight times out of ten. That’s not a bad return for saying just five words. Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest negotiators ever. “Lincoln on Communication” reveals his secrets.
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