Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
I find most people are afraid of negotiating. They think about it as a confrontation or are scared of being told no.
You can negotiate in a low stakes environment before moving on to something that really matters. For example, I would not recommend negotiating your salary as your first exercise.
Comedians don’t try out new jokes in front of big audiences. They start at home and then smaller clubs to see if people find it funny.
Then build up to a larger ask.
Practice. Practice. Practice. To get better, you need to repeatedly negotiate.
After enough repetitions, you will look for opportunities to negotiate.
I’m not advocating that you negotiate everything in life, particularly for services where people are trying to earn a living. You would be exhausted, and most people would probably not like dealing with you. It’s okay to pay full price for things where you find value.
This is not meant to be a guide about how to negotiate. There are plenty of resources that exist:
- How to Negotiate with Someone More Powerful Than You
- How to negotiate (4 key rules to getting what you want)
I will tell you three stories from my life that hopefully inspire you to practice negotiating something in your life.
Some of the stories are very simple. It might take you 20 minutes to try it in your life, and you can do it over the phone. Others require more time and being in person, where you might hear someone say “no.”
While some people may say some of these stories are not negotiating, that’s fine. I like to think of negotiating as asking. Most people don’t ask enough. They don’t ask for discounts or a better deal. It rarely hurts to try.
In most areas of life, you have nothing to lose. The worst that happens to you is someone says, “no.”
And the best part is that it gets easier the next time you ask. And easier after that. And so on. Until you are looking for opportunities to negotiate.
My first example requires less than 20 minutes of time, and you can do it over the phone.
Example 1: Negotiate your Cable/Internet Bill
I hate paying a penny more for my internet than necessary. I hate that most providers provide a great discount when signing up initially, but then raise the rates significantly after the promotional period. I get frustrated when companies don’t treat existing customers as well as new customers.
Because of this, I negotiate my Xfinity bill every year. You can do it, too.
Last year, I signed up for a 75 Mbps package for $39.99 per month. I knew the price was locked for a year and then would jump, so I made a calendar reminder last year to call Xfinity three weeks before the price increased this year.
Before calling, I determined what I wanted. In my case, it’s simple. I need an internet connection that’s fast enough for a couple devices. I don’t need cable TV, phone, or any of the other packages.
I followed the following steps:
- Opened a new Google Chrome tab in Incognito mode because I did not want it to recognize my email address or cookies on my computer.
- Searched for “Xfinity internet” in Google and when on their website, I found the link “I’m New to Xfinity” because I wanted to see what they were offering new customers.
- Typed in my address and told them I am moving to it as a new customer and clicked “View Deals.”
They had packages for various speeds. I decided I needed 100 Mbps. It was $34.99 per month.
Next, I searched other providers in my area to see if it was cheaper and whether switching was an option.
Unfortunately, I had to choose Xfinity, unless I wanted a slow internet connection. The only other provider had 15 Mbps speeds.
Knowing I had no other options, I called Xfinity. When the phone prompt asked what I was calling about, I said “disconnect service.” This routes you to their customer retention department, who can offer the best deals.
When you talk to customer service people, be kind. Be courteous. Be respectful.
It goes a long way. People are more willing to help people who are nice.
Think about it – when someone was mean to you, how likely were you to go out of your way to try to help them?
Then think about when someone was nice to you – how likely were you to go out of your way to try to help them?
Kindness is the better route.
When I reached the customer service representative, I said, “Hello, how are you?”. Once we finished the small talk, I told her that my internet bill was going to increase in price, and I wanted to know what was available because I saw they were offering new customers $34.99 online for 100 Mbps.
She said she could offer that same plan for $45.
I asked, “Are there any other options? Is there any way to lower the price?”
She said no, so I told her I wanted to cancel. I wanted to know I was getting the best deal they could offer.
I canceled and called back 15 minutes later. I told the new person I spoke with that I wanted to undo my cancellation and to see if the $45 offer for 100 Mbps was still available. She said yes, so she switched me to that package on my next billing cycle.
By being kind on that call, I also had a good conversation. I heard about her work-from-home experience with a young child at home. She told me a couple funny stories, and we laughed together. If I was a jerk, none of that would have happened.
I could have skipped the calling back step, but again, I hate paying more than necessary for cable. I had to be certain it was the best deal I was going to receive.
What were the results?
I did not get the $34.99 deal I had initially wanted, but by spending 20 minutes, I avoided my bill jumping to $69.95.
If I had done nothing over the next year, I would have paid $24.95 more per month ($69.95 – $45). Over the course of the year, that would have been $299.40.
It may not be a ton of money, but I would much rather have $300 to spend on something enjoyable rather than paying Xfinity. It only took 20 minutes, too. If you made the savings into an hourly rate, it would be nearly $900 an hour.
At $900 an hour, it was worth the time.
Plus, I practiced negotiating one more time and was told no. That builds confidence when negotiating in the future.
Do you see how it was a small, simple ask with no downsides?
But, by asking, I am saving money. You can do it, too.
Again, you can follow these steps:
- Research your options with your current provider
- Research your options with competitors
- Call and ask to disconnect your service
- Be kind to the customer service representative
- Ask for the deals you see online
They will likely offer you something. And don’t forget to set a calendar reminder for the following year to call back. Good luck!
My second example is something I believe people negotiate less.
Example 2: Negotiating a Mattress Purchase
I did not do a great job preparing to negotiate for buying a mattress, but you can learn from my mistakes.
Did you know you can negotiate buying a mattress?
Maybe not every place will negotiate, but many will. I bought my last mattress at Mattress Firm, and they were willing to negotiate.
Having moved into a place with more than one bedroom, I wanted to move the queen mattress to the second bedroom and put a king mattress in the master bedroom.
Since I had bought the queen mattress a little more than a year before, I had already tried nearly 50 different beds at different stores and knew I wanted the same exact bed.
I asked them to look me up in the system to see what I bought last time because I could not find it. They found me in the system, I confirmed the bed was correct, and told them I wanted to check out.
I skipped the extras – sheets, pillows, mattress protectors, etc. – they are heavily marked up. When the salesperson told me the price, I was surprised.
The bed was significantly more than last time. I couldn’t remember the exact price I paid last time, but I knew it was more than I wanted to pay for a slightly larger mattress.
At that price, I was willing to find a cheaper bed. But, I didn’t want to go elsewhere.
I said something along the lines of, “That was more than I was hoping to spend. I was hoping it would be similar to last time. Can you look up what I paid last time?” He was able to find it in his system, and I asked, “Can you match that?”
He said, “I can’t match that same price because the bed is bigger.” I told him, “That’s fine. We’ll look elsewhere and started to walk out.” At this point, Molly, who came with me, looked at me like I was out of my mind. I could sense her thinking, ‘Not ANOTHER mattress place!’ Because I had not planned on negotiating, she did not know I started.
The salesperson said, “If I can bring the price down to what you paid last time, would you buy it now?” I said, “Yes, we could be done in five minutes.”
After some searching on his computer and saying, “Let me see if this will allow me to match the price. I’m not even sure it will let me.”, he was able to match the price.
What was the end result?
I “saved” about $500. I put saved in quotes because I was not going to pay that much for a mattress, so it may not all be savings.
More importantly, we spent little time at the store, and I had a bed I liked at what I considered a fair price.
Truth be told, I did not feel great about my first mattress purchase. After I had seen how I could negotiate this time, I regretted not negotiating before.
If I had to do it over again, I would be more prepared. I would know prices and how much I was willing to pay. I did not feel great doing it on the fly.
Next time you go to a traditional mattress store, try negotiating. If they have you in the store, there are good odds they will try to sell you the bed if you make a reasonable offer because they know it is low odds you will return if you walk out. Again, the worst thing they will say is no, and you can purchase it from somewhere else.
My next negotiating example is a large purchase, and I chose to do no negotiating in person. I did it over email.
Example 3: Negotiating a Car Purchase
Who loves car shopping?
Ah, the great feeling of stepping onto the lot and being greeted by a salesperson. I shiver thinking about it.
I wanted to avoid it at all costs.
After doing extensive research, I knew what car I wanted. If I hadn’t, I would have gone to the dealership to test drive first.
Instead of going to a dealership, I emailed all the Subaru dealerships within 50 miles. Being in the Pacific Northwest, we have many. I emailed seven different places with the specific car I wanted, the packages, and asked for an out-the-door price.
Within a couple days, I had the offers. Most were around the same price, but there was a difference in price by a couple thousand dollars.
I asked the one with the lowest price if I could come test drive a similar car and if I liked it, to hold the specific car I wanted. I made an appointment to test drive. I liked the car. I put a deposit on the car.
If you are unsure about a fair price for a car, check out this tool by Edmunds.
When the car arrived, I still had to sit through the extras pitch. She had the final invoice. I compared it to what we had agreed, and it was marked up about $7,000 more. She had added a warranty, special paint, and the other stuff I did not need. I asked her to remove those items, and we were back to the low price we had previously negotiated.
I paid and was on my way.
There was no negotiating in the store, wondering what another store would offer, and driving around town. I knew what each store was willing to offer before I arrived.
I am thankful the internet sales departments exist.
If you don’t research or carefully review every document, you may pay thousands of dollars more.
Instead, I hardly had to negotiate, and I could do it from the comfort of my home.
Next time you need to purchase a car, do your research and try negotiating however you best see fit – in person or online.
Before negotiating a purchase, understand your cash flow and budget. Instead of focusing on how best to negotiate, remember to not be afraid to negotiate. Think of it as asking a question.
Their worst response will be “no.” Hearing no builds confidence and makes it that much easier the next time you ask.
I hope this helps shift your mindset and opens up your mind to negotiating.