How to Negotiate With Confidence and Strike the Best Deal
I'm always surprised when I see otherwise confident, capable, and brilliant people cower at the prospect of a little friendly negotiating. When it comes time to buy a car, hire a service, or pick up a second-hand coffee table, we shy away from haggling. I think it's largely due to being unprepared and not knowing the protocols that can help ensure success. The result? We're paying more than we need to for much of what we buy. (See also: Negotiating 101: The 5 Buyers You Meet in Hell)
If you'd like to become a better negotiator, here are a few tips that can vastly improve your chances of landing a sweet deal on your terms.
Come With Cash
I've said it before, but it bears repeating — cash is king.
Nothing positions you for success like coming to the negotiating table with cash in-hand. First, in the Age of the Craigslist Scam, cash speaks volumes about your seriousness as a buyer. Second, it motivates sellers to be more flexible on price, especially if they just want a quick sale so they can move on to other things. Third, it's quick and clean — no waiting for ATM runs, for the bank to open, for checks to clear, etc.
Be the First to Respond
When negotiating, there's no such thing as being fashionably late. Responding promptly and making a commitment to see an item before others have a chance to seize the deal isn't just smart shopping. Sellers will often honor a "first come, first served" rule, even if another buyer offers a better deal later.
It's true — sometimes the difference between success and failure lies in just showing up. Anyone who advertises something for sale expects a few flakes, but that doesn't mean it's OK to be one. If you're interested in an item and want to prepare yourself for a successful deal, show up, don't be late, and try not to reschedule half-a-dozen times.
Successful negotiating is built on clear communication.
Buyers should ask questions, discuss their concerns about an item, and backup their offers with sound reasoning. Silent sellers and stoic buyers don't make for easy deals. Open up, chat, try to create an authentic rapport with a seller, and let the negotiating process ebb and flow naturally.
Tell Your Story
Sometimes it doesn't hurt to share a little bit about yourself and how you'll use what you're buying. No need for elaborate stories or embellished tales of woe. Just help the buyer to understand and appreciate your situation.
Maybe that used bike will be your kid's first mode of independent transportation. Maybe that riding lawnmower will help your aging father maintain his own lawn for a few more years. Beyond being purely transactional, negotiation is a human-to-human activity, and its gears are greased by sharing.
Scoring a bargain is great, but there's no need to cut a seller's margin to the bone. The best deals leave both buyers and sellers feeling satisfied. Understand the real value of what you're negotiating over, estimate what the buyer has put into it, and shoot for a figure that will respect both parties.
Beyond all these suggestions, the one overriding piece of advice that should guide your negotiating is this — relax and enjoy the human-to-human exchange that's part of the process. Within your own predetermined limits about price, be flexible and view the seller not as an adversary, but as a collaborator. Before you know it, you'll be an expert negotiator scoring bigger and better bargains than ever before.
Are you a negotiator? What was your most recent haggling bargain? How much did you save and what was the process like?