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There was a time when a bit of haggling was expected in nearly every transaction — from the price of shoes to the cost of a loaf of bread. Sadly, negotiating is usually reserved for home-buying, the purchase of car, and used items these days. Still, knowing how to negotiate effectively can save you (and make you!) big bucks over a lifetime. Here are eight negotiating skills everyone should master.
The relationship between buyers and sellers has been rigidly established from years of training and a culture where the price tag is almost always the last word. It takes a bit of fortitude to enter a conversation with someone over price, and try to get a better deal. If your confidence is shaky, start with low-stakes purchases at garage sales and flea markets, then work your way up to more significant purchases like cars or a house. (See also: How to Negotiate With Confidence and Strike the Best Deal).
Sellers want to move merchandise and they often embrace a “bird in the hand” philosophy to making a deal. With that in mind, sometimes simply being first is all the advantage you need. Keeping your ear to the ground, combing the classifieds, and being the first in line puts you in a position to beat the competition and walk away with great bargains.
Great deals can be made between adversaries, but not between enemies. No matter what side of the negotiating table you’re on, the ability to establish a rapport and keep things friendly and light will serve you well. Remember, negotiation is more of a dance than a death match. The best deals are those where both parties get to walk away relatively pleased.
4. The Poker Face
Imagine you’ve found the perfect antique hutch for a song at a local flea market. Congratulations. Now keep your emotions in check and start haggling. Remember, part of your leverage is not letting your enthusiasm show and subtly implying you have other options available. Admittedly, this is a fine line to walk and getting it right is more art than science. The key is to push just hard enough to sweeten the deal, but not so hard that it turns sour.
Negotiating can sometimes be awkward, especially for those new to the sport. Stay calm and try not to make the first offer. Why? Because if you’re a seller, that price may be significantly less than the buyer was willing to pay. And if you’re the buyer, that price may be significantly more than the seller was hoping for. I know, it sounds like a twisted game of chicken, but the person who throws out the first number is usually at a tactical disadvantage.
Amazing bargains come in all shapes, so don’t get hung up on just one way of striking a deal. Try bundling multiple items together for a better value or bartering goods for services and vice versa. Effective negotiation is a creative enterprise, so look for novel ways to make a great deal happen.
Successful negotiators may seem casual about it, but they’re anything but. They’ve done their homework, know what an item is worth, know what they’re willing pay and — most importantly — have cash in-hand to make a deal.
If you’re negotiating the price of a gently used dining room set for example, avoid dropping this infamous line: “Sounds good, but I didn’t bring any cash with me. Can I stop back tomorrow?” An unprepared buyer is simply being a flirt — one of the worst types of buyers for serious sellers. Usually, not being able to pull the trigger on a deal means all other potential offers are still in play (and you’ve wasted your time and the seller’s time).
Negotiating can sometimes be a drawn-out process, so a little determination goes a long way. As long as both parties are engaged, keep the conversation going and try to find a middle ground that works for both parties.
A recent deal my mom made illustrates this point perfectly. In the market for a larger and more comfortable car, my 78-year-old mother negotiated at a local dealership for six full hours (seriously… the sales staff ordered lunch for her). Ultimately, she got the deal she wanted. Remember, if the terms aren’t right, be willing to walk away (or in the case of my mom, stay for lunch, get your second wind, and keep on tryin’).