Everyone can learn to negotiate

The thought of entering into a negotiation injects fear into many people, the worry of conflict and people saying no to you.  However, some simple tips and ideas can breathe life into even the most anti negotiator.

Let me explain.

The Credit Crunch put paid to my wife’s new kitchen last year much to her disillusionment but last month her old oven and hob died. With family visiting this Christmas we couldn’t put off the inevitable anymore so armed with her credit card we headed to the shops to buy a new oven and hob.

And boy hasn’t technology improved these kitchen essentials. Boiling water in seconds, magnetic heating elements, digital temperatures, self cleaning…the list goes on. But with every new feature and modernisation up goes the price.

We settled on a new oven and hob after trawling the shops and decided to buy from a great store called Paul Merton’s Champs and we were served by a really cool salesman called Jono.

So impressed, we wanted to do the deal there and then and my wife sent me off to Jono to negotiate the final price since she detests negotiating.  I think she’d rather have root canal work done in her mouth than negotiate.

But Jono was busy with someone else. We waited but he was engrossed in his customer.  I had to go, I had a train to catch to London, so we couldn’t wait any longer.  “We can phone him”, I said to Claire.

“But you haven’t time”, she replied. “I’ll have to do it. But I’m not negotiating, no way.”

I thought for a moment and realised that maybe negotiating on the telephone might be easier than face to face. After all, you don’t have to look people in the eye and get all nervous. And I remembered negotiating with a supplier back in the summer on email and recalled saving myself £50 per day and how less stressful it was.

“Tell you what Claire, if I give you a plan to follow would you do so and see if you can negotiate?”

“I’m up for that” said Claire also agreeing that negotiating on the phone sounded much easier.

So I wrote down on paper what she could do.

  1. Tell Jono that you’re keen to buy the two items today but ask him first “What’s the very best price you can offer me today?”
  2. Go quiet and listen to his price.
  3. Go quiet, make some hmmm’ing noises and ask him “You can do better than that can’t you?”
  4. Acknowledge his next price and tell him you will have to speak with your husband
  5. Phone him back in 10 minutes and say “My husband is keen for you to do better than that, what arrangement can we organise now so I can convince him”

Later that day she phoned me on the train.  And you can guess what happened. She managed to negotiate the price down by £150 and get free delivery and a reduced installation cost. Brilliant show, and I told her too.

Claire felt really proud and bristled with confidence. “This negotiating is easy” she said.

So what happened back there?  Some classic negotiating gambits.

Firstly put the pressure on the salesman first by asking what was his best price today. Everyone knows that white goods salespeople have some discount to offer especially in recession and coincidentally we were shopping at the end of the month, when targets are almost being met and commission figures being calculated.

Secondly, the vice technique, used by school teachers “come on Johnny, you can do better than that”.

Thirdly the higher authority figure which takes away the personal feeling from you and puts more pressure on the salesman.

So next time you need to negotiate with your suppliers or clients, use these strategies.  They do work and might save you a little bit of money.  But remember if they’re being used on you, the best way to handle the situation is to just laugh and admit they’re using a tactic on you and say you know about negotiation as well.  It breaks the ice and stops the negotiation straightaway.

As for the hob and oven – it was fitted by their guy – a luminous New Zealander called Nigel in no time at all, the customer service has been fantastic.

My wife is thrilled with the machine and really looking forward to her whole family visiting next weekend…I can’t wait.