This year, you’ve probably left hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the table. It was sitting there, ripe for the taking and you ignored it – certainly not because you don’t need the money.
It’s because you neglected to negotiate.
Every year, consumers all over the globe let salespeople and customer service representatives take them for a ride, all because they refuse to ask for what they deserve. We all want to trust the companies and brands that we choose to patronize, but the fact is they have no obligation to give you a fair deal. If you’re willing to pay an exorbitant price, they’re more than willing to take your money and ask for more. That’s the nature of capitalism.
But while refusing to negotiate can lose you thousands every year, putting even a little effort into it can net huge results. Oftentimes, company and brand representatives aren’t fully prepared or even motivated to negotiate with you – they just have an obligation to offer you a certain initial rate. Even a little pushback will often save you bundles.
How to negotiate with a car salesman
Car salesmen are notorious for being sleazy and deceitful, but there are ways to use their own tricks against them. First, you can’t be in a rush to buy a car. Being in a hurry will make you more impulsive and put you in a worse position to negotiate.
Our advice: Even if you are in a hurry, never act like you need a car right this second. The more patient you seem, the less the dealer will be able to pressure you.
Next, start shopping at the beginning of the month. Find a salesperson, give them the details of the car and deal you’re looking for and ask them to call when they have something that meets your requirements. Call them every few days, focusing your attention close to the end of the month, when dealerships are desperate to reach their sales goals.
Like any other interaction, you’re going to catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be polite, respectful and honest with the dealership. People are more likely to go out of their way to help others who are kind, instead of the jerk who’s threatening to leave a negative review on Facebook or Yelp. You can be firm, but always be respectful.
How to negotiate medical bills
Many doctor’s offices will give you a discount if you’re paying out of pocket or if your insurance won’t cover a certain procedure. For example my dentist offers a 5% discount if you don’t file a claim with your insurance.
Our advice: When you get a bill from your doctor, first call to verify that every charge is accurate. Medical billing errors are common, but easily fixable if you call and poke around. Once you’ve confirmed that you’re being billed correctly, ask if they have any special discounts or offers.
For example, I used to visit a doctor who was part of a large hospital chain. The billing department gave 10% off if you paid in full, but they didn’t advertise this feature on the statement. You had to call and request it. Other doctors will give discounts to seniors or members of the military, but you might have to remind them of that when they send the bill.
If you can’t afford to pay your bill in full, ask about a possible payment plan. Many doctors would rather get a little bit every month than have to send the bill to collections, where they’ll receive pennies on the dollar. Some hospital will even forgive the remaining debt after a few month’s of on-time payments.
How to negotiate with the cable / internet company
Cable companies are notorious for increasing rates once a promotional period has ended, surprising customers with a bill that’s more than they’d previously been paying.
Our advice: Instead of paying your new bill, call the cable company to complain and threaten to move to a competitor. It’s best if you have a specific company in mind, so they can match whatever offer you’re thinking of.
For example, if you have a bill from Cable Company “A” that’s $75 more than your normal bill, tell them that Cable Company “B” is offering you the same service for $100 less.
The best offers are usually for new customers, which is why your current provider increases rates once you’ve been with them a certain length of time. Shop around for the lowest new customer offer you can find and use that as your starting point.
Most cable companies have retention departments that are authorized to give you a discount if you say you want to cancel your current contract. It sounds cliche, but saying you’ll move your business elsewhere does work. You can also use this strategy with your cell phone and internet providers.
How to negotiate with salespeople
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we went to J. Crew to look for his wedding suit. After a day of suit shopping, we were tired, but determined to find the right piece for a good price.
After only a couple tries, we found the perfect suit – except for the $500 price tag. Ouch. The salesman could tell how much we liked the suit, and when I asked him about any special offers, he said he could give us an extra discount if we also opened a credit card with the store. He also extended an extra 30% off that wasn’t available until the next week. We left paying less than $400 for a really nice suit.
I got the sweet discount because I was polite to the associate and asked about any specials they had. When it’s clear that you want to make a purchase, but need a good deal, most people will find a way to work with you.
General tips on negotiating
- Speak less. A common tactic in negotiating is to never speak first, and limit the amount you talk overall. There’s strength in being quiet, and allowing the other person to talk first will put the ball in their court. They might get nervous or uncomfortable – that’s OK, as it will compel them to give in more easily to your demands.
- Ask for more than you want. When you negotiate, you’ll almost always end up with a less favorable deal than you initially offer. If you start from a more advantageous position, you can still come out on top after being negotiated down. If you start by asking for exactly what you’re hoping for, be prepared to walk away disappointed.
- Do your research. There’s nothing more dangerous for a salesperson than a well-informed customer. If you know the true value of what you’re asking for, you can be more confident in your offers and more focused during the negotiation process.
- Be willing to walk. It’s much harder to negotiate for something when you really need it. If you want to get a better rate, be genuinely prepared to take your business elsewhere if the need arises. You always want to be in a position where they need your business more than you need their product.
- Don’t take it personally. A negotiation is like a professional argument. The whole nature of the interaction is based in tension, and that can make some people feel uncomfortable. But the fact is, there’s no need to bring emotion into a business transaction. The more you can detach your ego from the process, the better position you’ll be in to fight for a great deal.
- Don’t just focus on the price tag. Negotiating for a better price is great, but that’s not the only way to increase the value of what you’re negotiating for. If the price seems firm, consider asking about bonuses and perks. If you’re buying a car, see if they’ll throw in free oil changes or tire rotations for a year. If you’re buying an internet package, see if they’ll extend the duration of a special offer or comp the router.
The bottom line
There’s no reason to be afraid of negotiation. Anyone in a sales position is used to it, and these lower-level employees often have no incentive to push back. When you ask for a better rate, you’re very likely to get it.
There’s a bigger lesson here about asking for what you want. Politeness is important, but there’s no reason to let a massive corporation make more at your expense than is necessary. Whether you’re buying a product, considering a job offer or even signing a lease, there’s almost always some amount of leverage you can use – and leverage that can be used against you if you’re not careful.
Do your research, hold your head high and ask for more. You’ll be surprised where it gets you.