Negotiation is often conjures up images of a sleazy car salesmen, high-profile sports contracts, and Hollywood-style money deals.
That’s a shame because negotiation doesn’t have to be sleazy or awkward.
Furthermore, most negotiating situations are much more routine than buying a car. Where to go for dinner? What movie to watch on Friday night? How to split the bill at lunch?
The approach that has been most successful for me has been to use “natural negotation.” Natural as in natural conversation. You don’t force your way in. You don’t make a fuss. You don’t burn bridges.
Instead, you treat the exchange as a conversation instead of an argument. Quite often what you end up with is the most desirable outcome: the other side will happily give you what you want. Win-win.
These 27 tips will help you become a friendly natural negotiator… and that will make everyone happy. Oh, and don’t dismiss some of them as too simple. If it’s “too simple” for you to take seriously, then you’re probably not doing it.
Developing the right mindset
1. Accept the fact that you need to negotiate. You may not like it. It might make you feel awkward. The fact is, we all negotiate whether we want to or not. And if choose to ignore it, then you will lose. Very few people will try to create an outcome that is harmful to you, but almost all people will do what is in their best interest. If their best interest and your best interest don’t align, then you lose. That’s where knowing the basics of negotiation – and learning how to use them – prevents you from getting stepped on and pushed over.
2. Forget about the price tag and focus on what you are willing to pay. Economics 101: an item is worth what someone is willing to pay it. There is no reason to accept the given price if you’re not willing to pay for it. The agreement between buyer and seller happens during every purchase. There is nothing wrong, cheap, or immoral about asking for a lower price.
3. Know how much value you hold. Do you know how valuable your business is? For many businesses, the cost of acquiring a new customer is very high. Companies pay for advertising, marketing, shipping, packaging, and a whole host of other costs all just to get a product in front of you. Even if you buy a product or service for 50% of the regular price you are making all of those costs worth it to the company because they got a new customer. And if they do a good job, then maybe you’ll be a repeat customer. So that first 50% was totally worth it. Negotiate for a discount, your business is worth it.
4. Know what you are willing to accept. Not every negotiation can be planned ahead of time, but you can prevent a dumb mistake by knowing where you are going to call it quits before you start talking things out. Know what options are out there. How much does that car usually sell for? What is a typical rental rate? Do your homework and, if you can, bring proof.
5. Just try one new thing. If negotiation makes you uncomfortable, then only focus on doing one thing out of your comfort zone. You don’t need to be a master negotiatior to get your desired result. Sometimes one little addition is all it takes.
How to start
6. The way you enter a room can dictate how the rest of an interaction will be. Ever see someone slump through a doorway with a scowl on their face? Not very inspiring. Keep your head high and smile when you enter. Starting things off with a positive vibe is very important, no matter how small it is.
7. Find a person who can help you. The first person you talk to will not always be in a position to deal with your situation. If they don’t have the ability to make the changes you need or give you the discount you want, then politely ask to talk with someone that does.
8. Don’t dismiss someone on a bad note. If you do need to switch to someone else, then remind the person you are currently talking to that you’re happy with their service and you appreciate their help, but you would like to talk with a manager.
9. Kick things off by talking about a mutual interest, making a true compliment, or finding common ground. Talk about something you both like before starting to ask for what you want.
What to say
10. Use the other person’s name. It’s so basic that almost everyone forgets.
11. Focus on creating a cooperative discussion instead of an adversarial argument. Use the word, “We” to signify that you’re working through this together. For example, “You know, $100 is a good starting place. Now we just need to work out the details.”
12. Ask about alternative options. Most places have all types of discounts, reduced rates, secondary options, and other alternatives that can be applied. You’ll never know what options exist if you don’t ask. There is almost always more than one way to solve a problem.
13. If you have a bill with multiple items, always negotiate each individual item first. Go line by line and see if there is an alternative option, a discount, or if you can simply eliminate that item altogether. Then, when you have made it through the full list, you can ask for a group discount.
14. Ask open ended questions. For example, avoid asking, “Do you offer a discount?” The obvious answer is, “No.” Instead say “What is your discount for…” as it requires more of an explanation. (Hat tip to my friend Baker at Man Vs Debt)
15. If you can, offer to pay in full right away. Paying in full saves the business from the hassle of managing your payment plan or calling you in the future for money, so that benefit should be worth a discount on your end.
16. Give yourself an out. Negotiations often go south because blame gets assigned to one side or the other. Make it easier on both parties by referring to someone off the scene. A simple, “I’ll have to run this by my spouse/business partner/attorney,” can make it a lot easier. It prevents you from looking like the bad guy.
17. Listen more, talk less. You don’t need to say much. Typically, the person that talks more ends up saying something they regret. Silence can make some people feel awkward, but a well timed pause can say a lot.
18. Don’t offer an ultimatum. “This is my final offer.” “Take it or leave it.” “I demand 20% off.” Nobody likes being told what to do. Ease up, Corleone.
19. Acting like price is the only thing you care about is disrespectful. Saying, “What’s the most you will pay?” or “What’s the lowest price you can offer?” totally eliminates any human element of the conversation. Think about the person on the other end of the phone, other side of the screen, or other side of the counter.
20. Ask for what you want. The world is a good place with good people, but most of them are too busy with their own jobs to figure out what you want for you. People are willing to help, but you need to show them what to do by asking for what you want.
21. Don’t be vague. Stop beating around the bush or trying to tiptoe your way to a discount. Instead of hinting at what you want and hoping they figure it out, just clearly ask for your desired outcome. You’ll be surprised by how often you get it.
22. Ask the other side to help you. Another great tip from Baker:
The “what-would-you-do-in-my-shoes” question – My favorite way to initiate this question is to say, “Here’s the main issue… [restate problem plainly]… what would you do in my shoes?” Asking questions like this is an effective way to generate all sorts of creative ideas that you would never even thought to ask. I often ask this to customer service representatives after being told “no”.
–Baker, Man vs Debt
How to finish
23. Don’t put all that work in and blow it at the end. It’s easy to get nervous and panic when you’re on the verge of getting what you want. If you’re excited and don’t know what to do, then just ask for what you want and be quiet. Talking to much or play it carefully at the end rarely works out well.
24. No deals on a handshake. If you get a new price, a discount, or any other benefit, then ask for it in writing. Don’t just take their word for it unless you want to negotiate for it again later. Just make it easier on everyone and get them to write it down.
25. Call back or come back. Sometimes you get the wrong person. Sometimes you start off on the wrong foot. Sometimes you catch an employee on the wrong day. Getting someone with the right personality can make all the difference in the world. If your conversation isn’t getting anywhere, then hang up, head out, and try it again some other time.
26. Treat people with respect. No discount is worth burning bridges, ruining relationships, or making people feel disrespected. In the long run, you are better off paying a higher price and keeping the good will.
27. Don’t take it personally. Maybe you’ll get what you want. Maybe you won’t. Life will move on either way. Most people will never have a negotiation that will make or break their life. Keep it real and don’t get emotionally involved.
Just try it
You don’t need to become a master to notice a difference and earn some cash. For most people, just a few tips will make a big difference.