What comes to mind when you read those words? I think of a sleazy used-car salesman. Most Americans have a negative view of bartering. We’re used to seeing a posted price and paying it.
Living abroad for two years, I attended lots of outdoor markets and saw the difference in shopping habits. Posted prices meant little–they were a place to start bartering from. The merchants weren’t offended if a customer attempted to work out a deal.
I made a few minor attempts at bartering on the French streets. I don’t remember if they were successful or not but I do remember how uncomfortable I felt doing it. Negotiating is not an inborn skill of mine.
But it’s one I want to develop.
So, I’ve been studying the art of negotiation. Here are some highlights of what I’ve discovered so far:
To negotiate effectively, one must practice what Herb Cohen, negotiating guru, calls “detached involvement”. Meaning that you care, but not very much. The more emotional investment you have in a transaction, the more you are willing to sacrifice for it. The more you are willing to sacrifice, the easier it is to take advantage of you.
Effective negotiators (such as used car salesmen) can smell desperation from miles away. Your desperation is the “blood in the water”. The sharks smell it and come in for the kill.
Use the principle of detached involvement in two ways: first, care about what you are negotiating, but not that much. Don’t let your emotions be your “tell”, the thing that gives you away to the other side.
Second, watch the other side and asses their emotional investment. If they are deeply and conspicuously involved, then you have the advantage. You now know that you can be more aggressive in your requests.
Slow Down, Partner
Put time on your side. If you need it now, and advertise that need to the other side, you are at the disadvantage. The other side will see your need and offer fewer concessions. By being impatient, you have become emotionally invested and violated the previous rule.
The more time you spend looking at options and letting the “I want it now!” impulse die down, the better deal you’ll find.
Often, experienced salesmen will attempt the “hard sell”. They present offers as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, one-of-a-kind deals, or other methods to get you to buy now. Don’t go for these high-pressure tactics. In these situations the only thing you need to buy yourself is some time.
Buy yourself this needed time to think things over by limiting your own authority. Say something like, “Thank you for the offer, I will present it to my board/CEO/wife.” By making someone else’s word final, you can’t close the deal right then, when the salesman is breathing down your neck.
If the salesman won’t give you time to think it over or discuss it with someone else, walk away. The deal is almost certainly not worth it.
You won’t have any idea what a good deal looks like until you do some research first. Never take the salesman’s word on how much of a discount you’re getting. Look on the internet, check competitor’s prices, look at what comparables have sold for recently.
In negotiating, information is power. Walking into the dealership armed with facts and figures cuts down on the likelihood of getting swindled. Once the dealer sees that you know your stuff, his prices will have to come down to earth or you’ll be out the door.
Always, always begin your negotiations in a friendly manner. You can move to playing hardball if needs be, but don’t start there.
Why? Two big reasons:
The norm of reciprocity is very strong in humans. We mirror the behavior of those we interact with. If someone approaches you smiling, complimenting you on your shirt, do you frown and curse them under your breath? No way.
Now, what if that same person approaches you with a scowl and middle finger? Different story.
The second reason to start out friendly has to to with adjusting your approach. It’s easy to move from friendly to confrontational and nearly impossible to move from hardball to nice. If you start out red-faced with your voice raised, the other side puts up thier walls. Good luck trying to get any flattery or smiles past those 10-foot thick barricades.
You know how the saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Don’t rule out using a firm, confrontational approach, just don’t start that way. Start out friendly and then move to hardball if the situation demands.
Go Forth and Conquer
Well, now you know all of the tricks I’ve learned so far. Most of it has to do with going into a negotiating situation armed with information, detached from strong emotions, and in a friendly manner.
What negotiating skills have you learned?