I come from a long line of bad negotiators. My father was guided by the principle that you get what you pay for, and besides, the salesman has to make a living, too. I suspect the real reason he hated negotiating price was that it made him uncomfortable—more like a trader at a Moroccan bazaar than a middle-class suburban family man in an appliance store.
Today, in not-so-good times, negotiating has become an almost blood sport, with the survival of organizations resting on how well managers negotiate overhead costs, business contracts, employee salaries and even debt.
There are armies of consultants who can teach you negotiation techniques and equally powerful counter techniques. However, I’ve learned that the most masterful negotiators recognize that a true negotiation is really about compromise.
For starters, it helps to write down your goals, especially for important negotiations. Map out a strategy and decide what you’re willing to trade, what you would like as an outcome and the results of winning or losing.
Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to be flexible. Years ago I was negotiating with a client over payment of a bill. He couldn’t pay, but he did have a boat in the Virgin Islands. I sailed happily for a week and we both came out of the negotiation winners.
Negotiating has become an almost blood sport,
While I’ve watched some negotiators play hardball with an outcome that is almost entirely in their favor, it’s rarely a good long-term strategy. Reputations matter and angry people usually share their stories with anyone who will listen.
Although some consultants suggest practicing the audible gasp when the first price is mentioned, my friend, Mike, suggests just a long pause—a very long pause and steady eye contact. Usually, that is enough for the seller to come back with a lower price.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, especially if you can bring to the table the promise of repeat business or additional customers. And, if you can live with a flexible delivery time or better payment terms, ask for that discount.
It’s been said, “In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Practicing your negotiating skills at every opportunity will get you the life you negotiate and deserve.