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December 18, 2008

Probing Past Positions

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Jeff Cochran

1

Probing Past Positions
Probing effectively does not just work in fictional negotiations. Often, our seminar participants share their own success stories involving their ability to “probe and probe again” to get past the other sides positions and uncover their true interests.

Recently, we heard from a banker who specialized in real estate loans. He had a borrower that did not want to put up collateral for a loan. Rather than battling over the position of whether the borrower should provide the necessary collateral, the banker “probed and probed again” with questions like:

  • “In the past you have always provided collateral, why is it that you do not want to so this time?
  • “Is there something else you could provide us with other than collateral?”
  • “What is it about providing collateral that you do not like?”

In the end, the banker discovered that the borrower objected to putting up collateral because it was costly to do appraisals and other the administrative tasks necessary to provide this type of security. As a result, the bank was able to address the true interests of its customer and by waiving certain requirements, reduce the borrower’s cost of putting up collateral. By using the “probe and probe again” technique, the bank received the security it needed and the borrower was able to lower its expenses. A true WIN-win!

Here are two examples of how “probe and probe again” can help you circumvent common probing roadblocks:

ROADBLOCK: “That is all we have in the budget.”

  • Hypothetically, if you had the money in the budget, would you be willing to pay our price?
  • Have you ever had to get additional funding not in the budget? For what? How?
  • Are there other budgets from other departments that could supplement your budget?
  • When is the budget set? Could we spread payment to next year so we can include it in that budget?

ROADBLOCK: “It is company policy.”

  • Hypothetically, if it were not for the policy, would you be willing to do what we need?
  • What is the reason for the policy?
  • Has there ever been a situation like this before? What did the company do?
  • Has the company ever allowed you to violate any other policy? Why?
  • When was the policy formulated? Has it ever been amended?
  • Who in the organization has the power to override policies?
COMMENTS (1)
  • I honestly knew about a majority of this, but never the less, I still assumed it was beneficial. Very good work!

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