Deal Killers: 5 Phrases to Avoid When Negotiating


To the uninitiated, the process of negotiating can often seem stressful. Sellers get defensive about their prices; buyers hesitate to haggle for a better deal. In this potent of mix of awkwardness, we toss out phrases that don’t do us any favors and offer information that can hurt our chances of coming out ahead. Whether you’re new to negotiating or haggling is old hat, avoiding a few phrases can make all the difference. (See also: Why Women Don't Negotiate)

1. “I Haven’t Done Much Research, but…”

Researching value helps sellers determine a fair asking price. For buyers, research informs the purchasing decision and prevents over-paying. Whatever side of the negotiating table you’re on, operating without information (and worse, confessing it) puts you at an immediate tactical disadvantage and shows that you’re not prepared.

2. “Somewhere Between…”

I’ve always wondered why sellers offer a range of sales prices to a buyer. I have yet to meet a buyer who opts for the higher end of the range (if you know of one, please send him my way). Instead of pricing that used bike “somewhere between $100.00 – $150.00,” just settle on a specific price and go from there. Buyers, take the same advice. Begin your negotiation with a reasonable number and avoid broad and gray areas.

3. “How About…?”

Negotiation is a bit of dance. In it, each person makes an advance and then retreats, offers and counter-offers. I’ve always found it best to form my offers as statements rather than questions. It’s a fine point, but saying “how about $100?” seems to invite a counter-offer more easily than saying “I’ll give you $100.00.” That doesn’t necessarily mean $100.00 is my final offer, but a statement draws a verbal line in the sand better than a question.

4. “Let Me Get Back to You.”

Besides major negotiation deals like salary, homes, and cars, be prepared to seal the deal on-the-spot or walk away if you’re not comfortable. Since negotiating happens in real-time, don’t assume a deal or agreed-upon price-point will be valid tomorrow or the next day. Offering to get back to a seller is typically seen as a de facto “thanks, but no thanks” anyway, and it leaves the door open for other buyers to swoop in and steal the deal.

5. “I Haven’t Got Any Cash on Me Right Now, but…"

Buyers, this might be the worst thing you can say to a seller that you’ve been haggling with for 45 minutes. Unless you’ve just stumbled on a random sale or very recently been pick-pocketed, you should have cash on-hand and be ready to make a deal happen. Resorting to this phrase communicates one of two things to the seller: 

  1. I’m mildly interested, but afraid to pull the trigger, or...
  2. I’m chronically cash-poor and will probably never be able to finalize the deal. 

In either case, you’ve wasted at least two people’s time.

Some might say it’s just semantics, but when it comes to the art of deal-making, words make all the difference. So the next time you find yourself in friendly game of haggling — whether as buyer or seller — improve your chances of getting a killer deal by avoiding deal-killing language.

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Guest's picture

Although it may sometimes be unavoidable to say "let me get back to you" this definitely is one of the quickest ways to lose a good deal. When you've been in a conversation with someone for a period of time, you're the only person that's on their mind in terms of buying (or selling) so you should try and keep that momentum as you've probably already negotiated a deal by this time. Also, you're very right that using the phrase "I haven't gotten a chance to look into it much..." is probably the worst thing to say. This shows you lack the knowledge to make an educated decision, and you don't know enough to haggle down to what the appropriate price may be.

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

Great article! I'm thinking about selling my car and buying a new one in the near future and these tips will definitely help. I definitely will not be saying "How about...?" anymore

Guest's picture

There are times when you are all willing to purchase the merchandize then the seller start to pressure you something like, please let me know if you want it or not, someone else is looking at it at 3:30 pm tomorrow! This to me is usually a bad sign. Sign of dishonest seller... I just simply say, sure! sell it to that person then! When I am selling anything on craigslist, I would never say that unless it is true! Yesterday, I walked away from purchasing something on craigslist because the seller mentioned someone else wanting the item when infact there were no one! When I told her to go a head and give it to the next person, she freaked out and called me a shady craigslist people... She was so upset that I walked away! And I knew my instinct was right! Never buy from people who plays tricks or games! It usually means there is something wrong with the merchandize! Seller who tries to manipulate sales by creating competition that is not there, is BAD one! If you buy into that, you will regret it!!!