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Negotiating Mistakes
That Can Cost You Thousands

By Michael Soon Lee

Success in negotiating is a lot like becoming proficient in martial arts. You must learn to use of timing, power and leverage to your advantage. In bargaining contests, Americans tend not to do very well when compared to people in other countries around the world. There are some real black belts out there and here are some common mistakes that often keep us from getting the best deals:

Mistake #1: Being Afraid To Bargain: Some of us are a bit timid when it comes to haggling because we’re afraid to be rejected. In reality, there is no rejection in negotiating. If you ask for a discount on your laundry from a dry cleaner that you patronize on a regular basis and the owner says, “no” what have you lost? Nothing! Now you have the choice of continuing to pay full price or take your business elsewhere. It’s totally in your control.

Mistake #2: Believing It’s Not Worth Haggling Over Small Items: Many Americans only think about negotiating when it comes to big-ticket purchases like cars and houses. The real savings come when you get discounts on things you buy more frequently. For example, if you and your spouse eat out at nice restaurants once a week costing ninety dollars and you negotiate a thirty percent discount that saves over $1,500 a year. I generally only pay half price for meals saving even more.

Mistake #3: Forgetting That Everything Is Negotiable: Anything is negotiable under the right circumstances. I have gotten discounts on gasoline for my car, substantially reduced peoples’ IRS tax bills and even obtained deals on medical care. You would be surprised to find what others will do to earn your business as long as you keep in mind that there must be a benefit to them of accepting your offer.

Mistake #4: Thinking About Ourselves First: Many people only consider what they’ll get out of a negotiation. Black Belt bargainers are always thinking about what’s in it for the other person to accept a deal, not what’s in it for themselves. They know that if there isn’t a clear benefit to the other party they will never seriously consider an offer. Finding ways to help people solve their problems will make it easier for them to give you what you want. Most businesses make their money on repeat business because this eliminates their marketing costs. If you are a regular customer you deserve a discount for saving them money.

Mistake #5: Making The First Offer: Try not to make the first offer anytime you bargain because it limits your options. Even if the price is clearly marked, you can always ask, “Would you take less to sell this today?” If you are a buyer and you make the first offer it sets the lower limit because now you can only raise your price. If you are a seller and you name a price you can only go down from there.

Mistake #6: Being Too Nice: If you must make the first offer, make it low if you’re buying and high if you’re selling for the reason stated above. It sets the lower or upper limit and reduces your options. Being aggressive with your first offer leaves room for negotiating. Don’t worry about being nice as the other party can always say, “no.” You never want the other party to agree to your first offer because that leads to the next mistake.

Mistake #7: Being Too Eager: A martial artist always starts a contest by testing his opponent. Take your time when bargaining. In America “time is money” but in other countries it is used for building relationships. There is one word that a black belt negotiator never wants to hear early in the bargaining process - “okay.” This means that you paid too much or asked too low a price because you got impatient. Take your time and don’t put yourself under any undue time pressure.  

Mistake #8: Not Doing Your Homework In Advance: Most martial arts tournaments are won or lost before they ever begin and it’s the same with negotiating. Just like a fighter would never step into the ring without having spied on his opponent you should, too. If you’re buying a car, search the web to find the dealer’s invoice, when the new models will be coming in and if there are any bonuses or cut-rate financing available to you. No matter what you are buying or selling you can find out valuable information such as: what’s the current demand, the profit margin, and other priceless data.

Mistake #9: Not Playing To Win: Everyone has heard that in negotiating you want to develop “win-win” solutions but, in reality, nobody believes tying. You don’t want your opponent to get the better end of the bargain and neither do they. This is not to say that you try to take advantage but you should always try to get the best deal you can and assume that the other party will do likewise. You don’t need to be concerned about fairness because if they agree to your offer they must feel it benefits them as well.

Mistake #10: Missing Opportunities To Negotiate: Every time you pull out your wallet to pay for a purchase you should ask yourself, “Is this a chance to practice my bargaining skills?” This is not to say that you absolutely must bargain on everything but every transaction adds up and the more you bargain the better you become.

By negotiating more often you not only put more money in your pocket but also increase your negotiating skill. Black belts practice every day and so should you.

Read other articles and learn more about Michael Soon Lee.

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