I used to be shy and socially awkward. Every social interaction was better when it was over. I barely made eye contact with waiters in restaurants, left parties with a cold trickle of sweat down my back, and handed over whatever amount was originally marked on items at flea markets even while the hucksters were looking to lower the price because I “had a nice smile.” Then, at 20 years old, I needed a car.
My neighbor was selling his at a reasonable price, and I showed up on his doorstep willing to pay the full amount. He smirked, and in a moment of extreme generosity gave me a lesson that informs all of my actions to this day. He commanded that I offer him a lower price. I insisted I had enough cash to pay the full amount. Once again he requested that I throw out a lower number. I did. He said no and smiled. I asked him to just please take my money. He asked me to offer one more amount. I did. He said no again. Then he made a counteroffer one thousand dollars under the asking price, which I accepted.
As he signed over the title and gave me the keys I asked him why he didn’t just offer me that price originally. He said that I needed to learn that being told no did not mean that I couldn’t get to a yes. “Never accept the first offer,” he said. I thanked him and enjoyed the car and the thousand dollars I saved.
Negotiating is not always as easy as it was that day. Sometimes the initial no stays a no, but I have found that it is always worth the asking. I call it finding the budge. With a little legwork, research, and confidence, knocking cost down a few thousand dollars or more frees up that savings for other investments.
Let’s continue with the auto buying scenario, but move it to a dealer’s lot. Unless the dealer you are buying from is specifically non-negotiate, everyone knows the sticker price is just a starting point. However instead of simply relying on your charm and prayer to nab a better price, do some research. Find out prices on similar models in the area, the internet makes researching prices easier but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to other dealerships. Having a conversation means you can talk them down on their prices and take those lowered offers back with you to the negotiating table. If the guy down the road is willing to knock a thousand off, see if your initial dealer can drop below that. Sales people are hungry for sales commission especially if they are looking to clear the lot for next year’s models. Let them know they have competition and then make them an offer, the worst they can do is say no and make you a counteroffer.
These skills translate beyond the dealer’s lot as well. I have successfully negotiated more favorable interest rates from my bank, better terms from my cell phone provider, and managed to reduce the hefty cost of my medical bills when I tore my ACL last spring. Most companies have room to budge in their terms, you simply need to ask. Stores need to move things off the floor to make way for newer more saleable inventory, often times associates are empowered to offer deep discounts to move the pieces however they will not offer the discounts up front. Not everything is negotiable, but developing the research and analytical skills of a top negotiator helps me find the best rates on everything.
When I was choosing electric services in Aden I compared several different services and found the lowest rate, and found similar success with other utilities. Don’t settle for the first price ever, even if providers are not willing to lower prices they might be able to offer better packages and services for the same rate. Find the flexibility and get what you deserve.
Learn to ask. Whether negotiating to get a lower price on an antique ring at a flea market, a better salary, or a sweet deal on a new ride taking the time to research and finding the moxie to make a counteroffer lines your pockets with extra cash with which to make investments, incur less debt, and lead a fiscally sound life.