There are many people in this world who think that asking questions is a sign of stupidity, but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s actually an enormous amount of practical wisdom in the old saying “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In fact, knowing how to ask questions – in particular, the right ones – is considered to be one of the most effective real estate negotiation strategies.

According to the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, a simple question can mean the difference between a deadlocked negotiation and a successful one. But of course, not just any old question will do, and not just any old method will work when employing them as a part of real estate strategies. There are ways of asking questions that are just as important – if not more so – than what you actually ask, and that can either warm someone up to accepting your point of view or send them back into their shell of unwilling cooperation. Here are a few pointers on how to ask the right questions to defuse a potential negotiation deadlock.

Avoid asking leading questions.

If you’ve ever watched a courtroom drama or paid attention to Court TV, you’ll know that a leading question is one that’s framed in a manner that will elicit a desired response. Some brokers employ this method, but these kinds of

If you’ve ever watched a courtroom drama or paid attention to Court TV, you’ll know that a leading question is one that’s framed in a manner that will elicit a desired response. Some brokers employ this method, but these kinds of

If you’ve ever watched a courtroom drama or paid attention to Court TV, you’ll know that a leading question is one that’s framed in a manner that will elicit a desired response. Some brokers employ this method, but these kinds of real estate negotiation strategies rarely work. Avoid asking questions that attempt to be too overtly persuasive, because most of the time they’ll only prompt a defensive pattern of response from the other party.

Don’t ask question that can be answered with yes or no answers.

The reason you’re asking questions in the first place is to gain a better understanding of what it will take to come to a negotiation agreement. Ask open ended questions to get the clearest understanding of the other side’s priorities, and avoid phrasing questions in a manner that makes them conducive to being answered in a single syllable. At Cardinal, this questioning technique is used not only to learn what the other side’s vision for a successful negotiation is, but also to engender trust and foster the kind of relationship conducive to an agreeable solution. Far too many people enter negotiations with false assumptions about what the other party really wants; asking questions cuts through assumption and gets to the truth. Questions should be non-threatening and should express a desire to ensure both sides are satisfied. One of the most effective questions asked by Cardinal is: “Assume it’s a year from now and negotiations are over. What would have to have occurred in these negotiations for you to be in a place where you’re totally satisfied with the outcome?”

Be open to the possibility of having your own mind changed. This is one of the toughest areas for some commercial brokers to master, but one that’s absolutely necessary to successful

This is one of the toughest areas for some commercial brokers to master, but one that’s absolutely necessary to successful real estate strategies. In order to ask the right questions, you have to approach the inquiry from an unbiased perspective, something that’s not exactly easy, but that is entirely necessary. If you find during the course of negotiations that your position has changed, go with that intuition and discuss these in depth with your team, taking the time to perform all necessary research. Don’t stick to your guns if you genuinely feel a new approach is required — that way lies doom for the negotiation process.

At Cardinal Partners, we offer a vast number of resources that help commercial real estate brokers tap into their potential. Get started by downloading our free white paper A Better Way to Broker™ and our Prepared to Win-Win™ negotiation worksheet.