– November 17, 2011
I was lucky enough to move to San Francisco in the Bill Walsh-Joe Montana-Jerry Rice era. The games were glorious. Jerry Rice made a name for himself by putting as much effort into each practice as he did in each game. It’s hard to argue with success.
What’s true in sports is true in negotiation. The more you practice negotiating, the better negotiator you will be. Fortunately, there are opportunities everywhere.
We tend to accept the stated price of goods and services as non-negotiable. But think about it: merchants are hurting. A merchant is more likely to negotiate to make a sale than to let a sale get away. Some money is better than no money.
You Can Negotiate Anywhere
Recently I needed a smog inspection for my car. Many gas stations are certified for smog inspections, but the fee they charge varies from station to station. I first drove to the station nearest my house. The stated price was $69, plus $8 for the certificate. I asked the owner (in a curious voice) “How is it that a station two miles away is charging $35 for the same service?” He replied that he had better trained mechanics and that therefore his cost of labor was higher. I shrugged my shoulders and got back in my car.
I then drove directly across the street, where the stated price was $65, plus $8 for the certificate. (Hooray, I’m already ahead!) “How is it,” I asked, “that a station two miles away is charging $35 an hour for the same service?” The clerk shrugged his shoulders. I turned to leave, stopped on the doorsill, then turned back to ask, “Would you do it for $50 flat?” He checked with the owner: “Fifty plus $8 for the certificate.” Deal. When I negotiate, I like to leave the other side with a face saving gesture, so I accepted his counter. That way, he got to feel he negotiated, too.
(In the drive from one station to the other, I realized that I really didn’t want to drive two miles away and wait 90 minute in an unfamiliar coffee shop, when I could walk to my house from station #2, and work at home while my car was being serviced.)
My bottom line: station #2 was closer to my home. It served my interests. And I saved $19 (almost 30%) from where I started.
Practice negotiating and keep track of how you do. Not only will you see a difference in your own wallet, you’ll get some better settlements at work, too.