In my last article, I talked about saving money on the big things, like cars and houses.
Multiple readers contributed good reasons why we don't save as much money as we should on cars and houses. But one of my favorite comments was from Tracy:
See, it would never even occur to me to negotiate on a car, nor do I have any desire to. I realize this costs me extra money and it would do me good to do it. But I find dealing with people tiring and stressful (introvert), and apart from saying “I saw this vehicle priced for this much less” at this other dealer (which wasn't an option last time we bought a car, because it was the only Suburu dealer within 5 hours of our house), I don't really know HOW to haggle (I understand it is a skill that you can learn and get better at). And finally, haggling makes me feel trashy. I'd put off buying cars FOREVER if I had to do that.
Amen, Tracy. I don't think we're alone in disliking negotiation.
But as I said last time, saving money on the big things is…well, big. So even if I don't like negotiating, I need to improve my negotiating skills so I don't pay too much.
Knowing how to negotiate isn't enough, though. Especially if it makes you feel trashy. Same thing if you feel sorry for the person selling the car or house. Or if you hate conflict (so one round of “Sorry, I'll have to walk away” is enough to make your palms sweaty). Or maybe you just don't want to talk to salespeople.
Maybe introversion isn't the right word to describe these personality traits.
But no matter what, as with money, negotiating is more about the noggin than it is about the math.
But I'm not going to analyze your noggin. (And you definitely don't want to analyze mine.)
Instead, we're going to cover negotiation, introverted-style.
Tips for the introverted negotiator
1. Do your research. While this tip applies to all negotiators, I think introverted negotiators really shine here. We are quite comfortable researching online, reading articles, and comparing costs. We are fore-informed and, thus, fore-armed. We know what a good deal is; we're just not always prepared to get it.
2. Decide how much you can (or will) spend. Again, this tip should be easy(ish) for everyone. Many times, your ability to secure financing will determine how much you can spend. Or maybe you just want to cut your bill by a certain amount. If you do have some wiggle room, sticking to the limit will be more difficult when personal interaction is thrown into the mix.
3. Know what you want (but don't want it too much). Your research and spending limits will usually dictate what you want. However, decide ahead of time what is negotiable. If buying a home, is a certain school district a must? Is the number of miles from your workplace negotiable? Will you still keep your service with your company even if they don't cave to your requests? As I know from experience, don't get your heart set on a specific house, but do clarify what you really want or need.
4. Negotiate via email if possible. Although I haven't personally done this, it would be much easier for me to follow Nicole's plan to negotiate by email than to negotiate face to face or even by phone. If you can't negotiate by email, the next tip may help.
5. Use scripts. If you call any utility company to negotiate a service, they have scripts in front of them to benefit their company, but keep you as a customer. Creating your own scripts again helps you clarify what you're really looking for and also helps focus on your own needs. But here's where I start to get uncomfortable. Scripts might mean…confrontation. By focusing on #2 and #3, you can stay strong!
6. Be pleasant, but firm. Whether you're negotiating by email, phone, or in person, be pleasant. And smile. But don't be too nice. You can be kind while still focusing on what you need. If you can keep your eye on the goal, saying “No, thank you,” or “I really want to keep my business with you, but I really need a better price,” isn't as painful. On a related topic…
7. It's not (really) about you. When the steel shows underneath my “nice girl” exterior, it's usually because I sense unfairness or I'm fighting for someone else. When you're about to back down, think about why are you negotiating. Are you trying to cut your cable bill so you have enough money to send your daughter to music lessons? Or afford a house so your children get a better education? Eventually, though, you may need to walk away.
8. Know when to walk away. Sometimes you have to smile (see #6), but know that what you want (#3) is more than you should spend (#2). And you walk away, literally or figuratively. This is the hardest for me. I imagine scenarios (he needs the money more than I do; his pay will be docked if I ask for another discount; I'm cheap! I'm stingy! I'm greedy!). And I guess the answer to all those questions could be “yes.” But that brings me to my last tip…
9. Look for the win-win. I am most successful at negotiating when I keep this tip in mind. You're negotiating, because each of you has something the other one wants. You want to buy a car (or save money on your phone bill, etc.); they want to sell you a car (or keep you as a customer). The best situations are ones in which both parties get what they want.
As an example, we know a couple who wanted to sell their home on their own, so they called up their neighbors. Several neighbors expressed interest, but this couple asked the first one how much he was willing to pay. He named the exact price they needed. They didn't negotiate further. And both parties were happy.
Maybe it's not the best example of negotiating. After all, the buyer named a price, and the sellers took it.
But focusing on the needs of both parties is a style I'm comfortable with (and it would save me more than I'm saving now). And we should all do what works for us.
Now I'm off to practice negotiating with my husband…to see who gets to do the dishes.
Lisa Aberle is a college professor by day and a freelance writer by night. Always an aspiring writer with an interest in money, she once ironically misspelled “mortgage” during a spelling bee. Most of her current adventures take place on the four-acre mini-farm she shares with her husband in the rural Midwest (where she writes with gel pens whenever possible).