Description: What if…? One of the best ways to determine the other side’s BATNA is to sound like you are making an offer that is almost too good to be true.
A hypothetical question that tests the water and determines the negotiator’s limits. “What if I were to tell you that could double the volume – what kind of price would you be able to show me then?” The Trial Balloon is an effective way to uncover a counter-party’s true bottom-line. It sounds like you are offering to increase the scope of the deal — but through careful phrasing you are actually giving yourself plenty of wiggle-room. The problem is that your counterparty is likely to hear the trial balloon as a solid offer — and when you back away from the implied promise to improve your offer he may consider you dishonest and manipulative. Use this one sparingly — and only to uncover his bottom line. This is NOT a relationship-builder.
Intent: Uncover his true bottom-line.
Style: Competitive. Possibly avoiding (when you are asking for his single, best offer instead of engaging in bargaining).
Counter: “Is that what you are offering?” “Would you mind putting that in writing before I take it to my boss?”