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.
1. Butter Up
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 and remember to smile. Customer service reps can easily be overwhelmed, especially around the holidays. When you’re kind, they’ll be more receptive.
“When you make the connection with somebody, they’re much more likely to give you what you want and that’s really key in negotiations,” 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. “I had a student who needed to buy a suit and the suit was $500, reduced to $350,” he says. “He watched this poor sales clerk beat up on all these other customers. The student asked for all kinds of discounts and he didn’t qualify.” According to Diamond, because the student was the only customer who’d so far been polite to the clerk, he was offered a “nice-guy” discount of $50.
2. Ask About "Exceptions"
The worst you’ll hear is no, but even if you do get denied a discount, Diamond says your next best move is to ask about exceptions. For example, if you’re shopping for a new cell phone contract but want to eliminate certain fees, ask “Do you ever make exceptions and drop certain charges?” or, “Do you ever give discounts to certain customers?”
3. Offer Solutions
Next, it’s important to tell the sales associate or customer service rep exactly what you want, but also frame your goal as a solution or suggestion that can help the company. If they can’t accommodate the request, they may be happy to offer some alternatives.
Diamond has an example: “There was bad weather and a lot of people had to have their flights rescheduled,” he says. “A woman I taught said to the gate agent ‘if you deal with me now and I don’t have a change fee, it’s one less person you have to deal with.’” He says this strategy is really about looking for ways to make the rep’s life easier.
4. Reference Store Policies
If you’re trying to resolve an issue with a utility company or retailer after a bad experience and you’re not getting anywhere, one trick is to acknowledge their own customer service policy or quality standards — all while reminding them just 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?” or, “How can you restore my faith in your business?” Use buzzwords like “I’m disappointed. This doesn’t seem customary.”
5. Stay Positive
Of course, similar to rule number one, remember to always keep your cool. Even if you feel unfairly treated, it never helps to raise your voice or be insulting. “I’m forever asking people, who are service representatives, for advice on how to get discounts,” says Diamond. “If I’m nice to them, they’ll tell me because people scream at them all day long.”
6. The Power of Silence
Speaking from personal experience, staying silent for a few seconds after hearing “no” can 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 rep follow up with solutions.
And, as always, we want to hear from you. What are some of your best negotiating tips? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.
Special Thanks to C. Wonder for making this video possible.