As I drove off to the opening weekend of this year’s Influencer Academy last Friday, enjoying the sweet smell of new car leather, my hair blowing in the breeze coming through my sunroof, while rocking out to my favorite 90’s jams on satellite radio, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction as I enjoyed my first ride out in my new vehicle.
I don’t need a new car (or in this case, SUV) to have all of the bells and whistles this one does, but it feels darn good knowing that because of my negotiation skills I’ve got half a dozen little luxuries and conveniences my practical nature usually foregoes.
Growing up, after my parents divorced, I would visit my dad on long weekends and holidays. He frequently had to work, and didn’t believe in babysitters during our limited times together, so over the years I had the opportunity to shadow him on sales calls he made as an entrepreneur to automobile dealerships and wholesale clubs. While he used to joke with the men he was meeting that I was his secretary, at eleven and twelve years old, I was more like his apprentice. I soaked up how he built relationships, told stories, asked for what he wanted and made deals come to fruition that seemed at times unattainable. Even though I struggled with confidence as a communicator until my late-twenties, or if I’m completely honest my early thirties, I have always come alive in negotiation situations and last week at the car dealership was no different.
After sharing the story with my Influencer Academy women and some friends and colleagues, I’ve identified 5 key lessons that empowered my negotiation success. Please utilize them whether you are negotiating for a car, a contract or anything else.
Lesson #1: Never let them know how badly you want it.
When my husband, daughter and I began the evening, we articulated our budget and made it clear we had no problem walking away that evening without a vehicle. When our salesmen, who was a total class act, nevertheless said he didn’t think there was any way he would be able to get us the deal I had presented, I told him calmly and with full conviction, “I’ll help you get us both the deal.” [Insert eye twinkle.] “And if not, then it wasn’t meant to be.” At various points during the negotiation the sales manager came out with a new offer and said, “If you want to leave here tonight with your new car…” and each time I politely interjected, “I’m okay leaving tonight in my sturdy little Prius. If you want to leave here tonight with one less 2015 on your hands, then come back to me with the car payment I want.” [Insert another eye twinkle]. And this brings me to my next negotiation strategy.
Lesson #2: Make them want the deal as badly (if not more badly!) than you do.
One of the reasons my husband and I waited until October of this year for a new vehicle was because I wanted dealers to be super eager to offload the current year’s oversupply. Sure enough, the parking lot was teaming with 2015 vehicles, and at numerous times when the sales manager came back to me with something like, “You have no idea how much of a loss you would be forcing me to take,” I smiled and calmly reminded him that it would mean one less 2015 vehicle taking up space on his lot. When at the end of the deal our car salesman volunteered that I had negotiated a better monthly payment than what is offered to employees, and I asked why he thought that was, he told me. “There’s a national incentive for us going on right now. And, both my manager and I really liked you and your family.”
Lesson #3: Be awesome.
You can be likeable and firm. I articulated the dollar amount I wanted to pay monthly at least a dozen times, when I would be presented with other offers, and each time I would say, “No, thank you. That’s not what I’d like to spend tonight.” My husband and I were super appreciative each time we were given a water, or told how well behaved our daughter was. (Did I mention I had a 21 month old on my lap during most of this process?) I told witty stories. Asked questions to get to know the other people brokering our agreement. People really prefer to do business with people they like and respect.
Lesson #4: Hold the silence.
Ultimately, my husband and I settled on a monthly payment just $10 higher than the amount we had first articulated to our salesman. Each time our salesman, and eventually his manager, would run over with a new number, I’d do my, “No, thank you” thing. Someone from the dealership would try to push me to change my answer, and I would just make eye contact, smile and keep my mouth shut. There were numerous times I wanted to say something, but I pushed my lips together knowing that if anything came out of my mouth I would just undermine my power. When you ask for what you want, make you case, then hush up.
While the last car my husband and I bought was from a private owner nearly half a decade ago, my negotiation muscles were pretty buffed up by the time we went into the car dealership. It helps that I teach negotiation in Influencer Academy, for corporate clients, and as curriculum in my digital programs. And if you want to be effective in negotiations, it’s vital you do it often.
Lesson #5: Practice, practice, practice!
Negotiate with service providers, hotels, your family – for monetary and in-kind items. As soon as my daughter can put more than 3 words together, if she wants something that either her father or I have said no to, she’ll have to present a compelling case for us to reconsider. It’s important to me that she never be a part of the >20% of women who will never negotiate.
Very few people do a brilliant, or even passable job, giving a presentation they haven’t rehearsed. And a negotiation is most definitely a presentation. Please follow these 5 steps, and be open to the awesome wins your negotiating can facilitate for you!