How to Negotiate Better Prices, Deals and Wages

By Damon Poeter

Nobody likes getting the short end of a deal. When it happens, many people assume that simply being more aggressive in their next negotiation will guarantee better results.

Not so fast. Just being pushier in negotiations isn’t necessarily the answer, says JJ Montanaro, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with USAA’s Military Advocacy Group.

Start Negotiations Strong, Finish Stronger

It’s more important to enter negotiations from a position of strength, he says. That means:

  • Doing research
  • Knowing what’s negotiable and what isn’t
  • Practicing patience
  • Seeking out counterparts interested in win-win results and, ultimately,
  • Having the ability to walk away if necessary

“Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that isn’t the right one to be in,” he says. “The important thing is to be honest with yourself up front. What do you want out of the deal, and what are you willing to settle for?”

Every negotiation you enter is a chance to learn. Here are some of the keys to negotiating successfully:

1. Know When and Where to Seek a Bargain

While there are plenty of situations where you can look for a better deal, not everything is up for bargaining, Montanaro says. You can’t haggle over your bill at the supermarket, but you might find some leeway at the farmers’ market. There might be a set price for less expensive home repair services like fixing a leaky faucet, but the cost of larger home repair or improvement projects is often open to bargaining.

It’s not just certain goods and services that lend themselves to negotiation—it can also depend on your location. Some parts of the world have very pervasive haggling cultures, where almost every price is open to offers and counteroffers.

In the United States, the prices we regularly pay for goods and services are often nonnegotiable, as are the wages and benefits offered for many jobs. But there are exceptions.

What’s Worth Haggling Over?

  • Buying and selling used items like cars, furniture and appliances
  • Shopping at flea markets, garage sales and other informal settings
  • Buying and selling real estate
  • Agreeing to rates for home services like babysitting, housecleaning and gardening
  • Settling on a price for a major home repair or improvement project
  • Negotiating and renegotiating payment plan terms for debt
  • Negotiating salary and benefits at a new salary-based job or renegotiating them at an existing job

2. Do Your Research for the Best Bargain

“Preparation is key,” Montanaro says. “Research what the right price of the car is that you want to buy or sell. If you have a job interview, find out what the market value of the position is before you get an offer or are asked for your preferred salary range.”

Try to anticipate what objections and counteroffers you might face, too.

“Rehearsing what you want to do and say is a big deal. If the first time you think about an objection to your offer is when you’re sitting in front of someone giving it to you, that’s problematical,” he says.

3. Work With, Not Against, When Negotiating

If you’re always looking to “win” a negotiation and make your counterpart “lose,” you might be missing out on opportunities to strike deals where both parties come away pleased with the result.

It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game with only one winner. Working with a negotiation partner rather than against them can produce more consistent, satisfactory results, Montanaro says.

For example, suppose you’d like to renegotiate your salary with your employer. Instead of simply demanding a raise, try opening a dialogue to discuss your own goals at the job and some benchmarks they’d like to see you accomplish to put you on a path to advancement.

4. Know When to Walk Away, and Know When to Run

“One of the most powerful words in the English language is no,” Montanaro says. Knowing when to say it during a negotiation is critical. Here are some scenarios where you might be better off walking away from a deal:

  • The person you’re negotiating with is unwilling to move toward a price or offer that you know from your research to be fair
  • You don’t feel you have enough information to make a decision within your counterpart’s timeframe

And here are some scenarios where you might be better off running away:

  • You feel bullied or rushed
  • You don’t trust your counterpart to live up to their end of the deal

But ending a negotiation involves more than just mustering the resolve to do so. You also have to put yourself in the position to be able to say no.

“If you have to sell your car today to pay your rent tomorrow, you become much less flexible with regards to the offers you can refuse,” he says.

The more time you give yourself to complete a deal, the better the results are likely to be.

Practice Makes Perfect(er)

Nobody comes out of every single negotiation they enter with a wonderful result. But if you apply Montanaro’s principles consistently, you should start to strike more good deals and cut down on the bad ones.

Need some help striking the right deal for the right car? Let the experts at USAA’s Car Buying Service assist you with shopping for and financing a new or used vehicle.

Joseph “JJ” Montanaro is a financial planner with USAA’s Financial Planning Services and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner. He has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and joined USAA in 2002. Before entering the financial services industry, he served in the U.S. Army for six years on active duty, and in 2009 he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. JJ’s daily focus has been to help families realize their goals, and his advice has appeared in numerous outlets including The Wall Street JournalUSA Today, CNNMoney.com and The New York Times.

 

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