When it comes to a lifetime of purchasing, one of the smartest things you can do is to spend less than regular retail prices.
And when it comes to most of the big purchases (and many of the small purchases too), you don’t have to wait for a sale – you just have to ask for it.
Negotiation is a way of life in many countries – and the suggested price is just that – the suggested price. It is actually expected that part of the shopping experience is to dicker on the price. Some shop keepers may even be disappointed if this doesn’t happen as part of the transaction!
In North America this is not generally the case. And while many retailers are open to a process of give and take prior to settling on a final price, the average consumer is embarrassed to ask for a discount, and finds themself simply accepting the sticker price or seeking something priced lower elsewhere without even a conversation.
For many categories – think houses, cars, furniture, electronics, contractors, your data plan, catering, gym memberships, and personal services of just about any kind – most sellers would rather accept a slightly lower price than to lose a sale altogether. This creates an opportunity for the buyer, who, by simply asking the question, “Is this the best price you can offer today?” may find themselves paying 5, 10 or even 15% lower than the asking price.
An expert negotiator knows a few more tips to bring the price down: set a target price and be able to walk away if you can’t get it. (This is called putting yourself in a ‘walk-away position’). As soon as you are committed emotionally, you lose some negotiating power and will end up accepting whatever final price is offered. However, if you know there are other alternatives that could work just as well, then you can truly walk away if your target price isn’t met.
There’s nothing wrong with paying less than retail, and asking for it. If the seller is unable or unwilling to drop their price, nothing is lost from trying. If the seller accepts a lower price, then clearly they are still making a profit and willing to accept less for the sale (otherwise they wouldn’t have accepted it).
Knowing how to negotiate, maintaining a high ethical standard, being honest and maintaining transparency all takes practice. When negotiating, make sure you use an approach that is consistent with your personal style – there is nothing worse than coming off scripted or text-book like when simply requesting a discount. A simple statement like ‘We just don’t have it in our budget to pay this much for this item’, can get the conversation started.
Sometimes a question or conversation can lead to a seller offering deals that aren’t publicly advertised. A request for a discount may lead a retailer to show you a ‘scratch and dent’ item – for example, a refrigerator that was damaged in transit and is now being offered for a discount, even though the scratch isn’t visible to the naked eye. As long as the warranty is still valid this might be a good buy.
Another good negotiation tool is the bulk discount. If you are furnishing an entire bedroom, or are purchasing several pieces at the same time, most retailers are willing to offer a discount on the total price – or even throw in a smaller item for nothing. Use a question like, “What if we bought all four of these pieces today – could we get 10% off?” You’ll rarely walk away without something off the retail price.
The art of negotiating is something that can save you tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime – and while sometimes you’ll need a professional to assist (like a lawyer or a real estate professional) you can do a lot of it on your own. It just takes a little practice, and the boldness to get the conversation started.