It's an old cliche that as a country we're very bad at negotiating, maybe that's why we're "a nation of shopkeepers"? (True story: my friend once tried to haggle the price of a fridge for me in Currys. The shop assistant told him she'd be right back and then literally went and stood awkwardly down a different aisle to avoid him. Harsh!) But running a business you quickly realise that practically everything IS negotiable and if you don't make the move you could be losing out.
I used to be a terrible negotiator (blame the Tiara Syndrome for that) so I've done some research, taking some online classes and reading books by some of the best negotiators to force myself to step it up and practice negotiating more.
I've learned from theory and practice that in negotiation there are generally two types of "dicks": people who don't want to negotiate at all (don't feel too bad if that's you, this used to be me too) and the (in my opinion) worse extreme- people who aren't satisfied with any deal until they've taken the shirt off your back.
In this post I'll argue for a better way to negotiate which can (hopefully!) both make and save you money.
Get People Invested
In my eBay selling guide, I suggest you should ALWAYS counter-offer, even if a potential buyer makes you an offensively low offer- why? Because when people actually bother to make you an offer they're investing their time and effort.
The more invested someone becomes (by responding to them) the more likely you are to make a deal with them on favourable terms. I'd also recommend including a friendly, personalised message to let them know they're dealing with an actual human.
Takeaway Tip: Don't immediately rebuff a dissatisfactory offer. Getting people involved by engaging with them in a real, human way might just turn the deal around in your favour.
Don't Play Hardball
If you start off in an oppositionary manner it's so much harder to backtrack and be nice (also, you look like an idiot). That's why it always makes sense to start friendly and then, if necessary, get a bit tougher.
In in similar but opposing vein, note the difference here between "friendly" and "needy". It does not behove you to whine to a buyer/seller about how poor you are and how much you need the money.
Everyone needs money, that's not relevant to the deal at hand, get over it.
Takeaway Tip: Be friendly, confident and approachable. A desperate or confrontational attitude will quickly put off your negotiating partner.
The key thing with negotiation is that it's give and take- you need to bring something to the table.
Think of it as working together with the negotiating partner to come to a positive solution. That's why you need to shut up and listen to find out what the other person wants that you can offer besides more money- like a fast collection or cash in hand. Think outside the box here. Is there anything that you personally can offer that no one else can?
It's unrealistic to expect someone to go down a lot on a price if you can't offer them any incentive to do it.
Takeaway Tip: Listen more than you talk. You need to find out what the other party want to make them a favourable offer.
Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away
Always be prepared to walk away from a deal. That means not getting too emotionally involved and never allowing yourself the dangerous thought "I have to have it!"
Once you get into this frame of mind it's very easy to convince yourself you want an item even if it's over your budget, or the right price but the wrong thing. Take a step back and try and approach the situation more logically. If you were negotiating this deal on behalf of someone else would you still be happy with it?
When Matt and I used to go out and buy stuff I was awful. I'd basically act like we'd already bought something, killing any chance of negotiation because I didn't want the seller to think me rude for wasting his time. The seller would think I was rude? When I was giving him money?! Yes, I know.
Now when we go anywhere I know to be a little more discreet.
Takeaway Tip: Hopefully no negotiation you ever do will be a life-or-death situation, so never be afraid to walk away with no regrets.
And Finally... Get out There and Practice!!
The hardest point to implement if you're on the shy side like me, but believe me, it's the only way.
If the thought of being instructed to go out and try haggling the price of a cup of coffee in Costa makes you want to vomit, you're not alone. But every single negotiation book I've read demands this of you pretty early on.
Why is that? Because the experts know we need to overcome that voice in our heads policing our behaviour and telling us if we ask for more than what's on offer we'll look rude or stupid (Freud called this voice the "super-ego").
Pushing your personal boundaries with practice is the best way to become a better negotiator, so don't be scared- just get out there.
Takeaway Tip: Try to ask for one thing every week that you know will get shot down. The more comfortable you get with rejection, the happier you'll be to ask.
So those are my best tips for negotiating
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