Some people, like my mother, love negotiating, and have done so all their life.
Some people, like my wife, hate haggling. I think people like this feel it is insulting to the other party. But often, the other party expects you to haggle or negotiate, and are ready for it. In fact, they have probably built the negotiation into their price to begin with.
Being able to negotiate effectively is a vital skill, one which can serve you in all walks of life-from your career to buying a car to buying other goods to buying property to negotiating in relationships/family etc.
As a solicitor, I have to negotiate often on behalf of clients, and I have made it my business to study the top negotiators to do the best job I can.
Do you want to discover how to negotiate effectively? That’s what I am going to take a look at in this piece, and by the end of it you will be in a far stronger position to negotiate anything.
The Most Important Negotiation Tactic-Detachment
The single most important tip is not to care too much. If you do, and you make it blatantly obvious that you very badly want this car/house/suit/holiday, you weaken your negotiating position from the outset.
Because the other party knows how badly you want it. What you need to do is maintain an air of detachment-sure, you want the thing, but not that badly. You are ready to walk away if the deal is not right.
As soon as the other party things, “Jeez, this guy is going to walk away, he must have other options”, you are in a far stronger position.
And giving this impression is entirely within your control.
So, care, alright, but not too much.
Also, if and when you are walking away because the gap between you is too large, and the other party offers you his business card “in case you change your mind”, don’t take it. Reverse the balance of power by giving him your business card or contact details, and tell him, “give me a call if you change your mind”.
Remember, you don’t have to buy this car at this garage, you can buy a different car or not buy one at all. But you have the money, and he needs the sale.
There are two ways to ensure you don’t care too much:
- Get someone else to negotiate for you
- Recognise the difference between loving and liking-think about how you will feel in 20 years’ time about this thing you are trying to acquire. This will allow you to become more detached.
2. Maximize the Other Party’s Investment/Commitment
If you can get the other party to invest a lot of time in trying to win you over it puts you in a stronger position. Why?
Because they have already invested quite a lot in you. And we know that the more a person has invested in something the more desirable it becomes for them.
Let’s say you are buying a motor car, or indeed anything in retail, and you spend a lot of time at the car dealers, but don’t buy. The car salesman has invested quite a lot in you, yet has got no return whatsoever.
Then you go back another day, and spend even more time discussing the potential deal. The more time the car salesman spends on you the more reluctant he will be to see you walk off and go to another dealer. He is far more likely to cave after spending all this time, especially if he knows he has competition.
You will, of course, have told him you are looking at other cars in the competitor garage.
3. Start Friendly and Cooperative With an Air of Incompetence
If you start friendly and cooperative you can always get more aggressive and adopt a “tough guy” stance later on.
But if you start with the “tough guy” stance you will have no credibility later on when you try to be nice and friendly, and claim you misspoke.
If the other party starts aggressive, let them.
Take it, take notes because inside they are thinking “this is going to be easy” when, in fact, all they are doing is investing more time in you. Ultimately, this will make it harder for them to walk. They will be like someone investing a load of money into a slot machine and being encouraged to try another machine.
No way will they walk, because they have put too much into this machine and it must be due to payout.
You want to be more like the private investigator Columbo than Confucius, the Chinese teacher and philosopher.
If you appear to be incompetent, or inexperienced and say to the other party, “look, I’m new to this, you are extremely experienced and have been around a long time, maybe you could help me here” there is a good chance they will respond well to this approach.
4. Deadlines are Important but Negotiable
The vast majority of concessions and deals are done towards the end, near the deadline. Don’t be afraid to exploit this fact.
For example, you spend a good bit of time negotiating the purchase of an expensive piece of clothing. Just when the vendor is happy he has you on the hook, and you are now due to pull out the credit card, you say, “can’t you throw in a couple of ties?” You will have a great chance of getting the ties, or a few pairs of socks, or whatever is appropriate.
But deadlines are the product of negotiations, therefore are negotiable. However, the passing of a deadline can actually be the opening up of an opportunity.
Ask, as they are quitting, “where did I go wrong?”. They will say, “when it’s over, we’ll tell you”.
And another deadline can be negotiated. Things are never over while relationships continue.
How many times have we seen political deadlines slip in the North of Ireland, for example, but eventually agreement is reached? It’s never over until it’s over.
These 4 principles will serve you well the next time you need to haggle or negotiate anything. It may be in your job, with your family, in your business, or just shopping.
You won’t need them all at the same time, but one you will need is the ability to give the impression of being able to walk away without batting an eyelid.