As the saying goes, “everything is negotiable.” Yet, few of us actually put that notion to practice because we either feel intimidated or awkward. But with the right mindset, and a few tricks under your belt, you’ll find it’s easy to finagle your way to deals and discounts anywhere, anytime. Here are some expert negotiating tips to put more money back in your pocket.
Before asking for a discount – invest a little bit of time in getting to know the sales associate — whether in person or over the phone. Strike up a conversation. Ask how their day is going. Smile! After all, customer service reps are sometimes overworked – especially now around the holidays — so they’ll be more receptive when you’re kind.
“When you make a connection, sales people are six times more likely to help you out. I like to say, I’m not negotiating with Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. I’m having a conversation with the person in front of me,” says Stuart Diamond a professor at the Wharton School of Business and author of “Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life.” He coaches students and business leaders worldwide.
“For instance, a student asked a cashier for a discount on a suit. Could he get a discount paying cash? No. Could he get a discount using a credit card? No. Were there any promotions or sales he could use? No. The student said, ‘I see you’ve had a bad day. I’m so sorry. Could I maybe get a nice guy discount?’ She gave him $50 off,” says Diamond.
Ask About Exceptions
The worst you’ll hear is “NO”…but even if you get denied a discount, Stuart says your next best move is to inquire about exceptions. For example, if you’re getting a new cell phone contract and want to eliminate certain fees, Ask ‘Have you ever made an exception and dropped these charges?’ Or, ‘Do you offer discounts to some customers?’ According to Diamond, “If they answer, ‘hardly ever’ or ‘not normally,’ they’re really saying they do this ‘occasionally’ or ‘under the right circumstances.’ Ask under what conditions they’re able to make a deal for you. Look at it as an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask the other party what they have done for others in the past.”
Remind the Company of Its Own Standards
Now, if you’re trying to resolve an issue with a utility company or retailer after a bad experience and you’re not getting anywhere, the trick is to acknowledge their own customer service policy and quality standards, while reminding them how long you’ve been a customer. Diamond suggests emphasizing your points by asking questions like, ‘Is this situation representative of your company’s customer service?’ AND using buzzwords like ‘I’m disappointed. This doesn’t seem customary. How can you restore my faith in your business?’
“People won’t hang up, walk away or punch you out. No one wants to admit they’re not following their own rules. Additionally, they’re concerned that by not following the standards, they will annoy or anger a third party higher up the management chain,” he says.
Of course, similar to Rule #1, remember to keep your cool. Sales associates and customer service reps face disgruntled customers all day so it never helps to raise your voice or be insulting. “A negotiation isn’t a game or a contest, it’s a conversation. Don’t turn it into a threat. If you get frustrated, you lose. Don’t make yourself the problem,” says Diamond.
Allow for Awkward Silence
And speaking from personal experience, staying totally silent for a few seconds after hearing “NO” may actually work to your advantage whether you’re asking for a better price at the car dealership or free shipping from the furniture store. Let the awkward silence build and you’ll likely see the sales person follow-up with solutions.
Develop a Relationship
Finally, earn special treatment by becoming a repeat customer. Stuart even suggests wearing the store’s merchandise when you shop there…all to develop a relationship. “Be forward looking. Create the vision of a relationship. Businesses want repeat customers. Show that you’re thinking about them and what you can do for that company. A lot has to do with just having the gumption to ask,” says Diamond.