Everything’s Negotiable – Isn’t It?

Not everybody is motivated by a sale price. Similarly, people don’t get excited about low stake negotiations. Things like asking your telephone company for a better rate or asking for a discount when offering to pay cash. It sometimes doesn’t seem worth the effort.

So, what keeps people from negotiating in more situations? Is it the fear of rejection — of the request itself or of you personally — that keeps people from negotiating for anything in the first place? Furthermore. the unwillingness to tackle low-stake negotiation opportunities could keep you from feeling confident and competent in approaching the crucial higher-stake negotiations.

If fear is keeping you from negotiating, it’s time to start using everyday encounters to practice, so you can build your confidence and competence for higher-stake negotiations. Higher stake negotiations that, if handled with skill, can add lots of profit to your business.

If you read up on the negotiation topic, most material you see will relate to the art of preparing for the negotiation itself. They also offer strategies for engaging effectively with the other party. But the real skill in most circumstances is in having the ability to recognise negotiation opportunities in the first place. The ability to recognise an opportunity depends on your perspective and your experience, as well as your culture, role models, and goals. Many consumers who shop in a department store have the mindset that prices are fixed, not open for bargaining. However, when someone walks through market stalls this is less the case, they see that many items don’t have price tags and sellers expect that some shoppers will attempt to haggle for a better price.
So, beyond commercial opportunities (since not all negotiations involve money/services/goods), what exactly is a negotiation opportunity? It can range anywhere from a disagreement with a neighbour, to the allocation of household chores, to your eligibility for a bonus at work. Consider asking yourself the following questions about situations you encounter in your everyday life:

  • Is this situation fair? Are others being offered better compensation, or do they benefit from fewer responsibilities, more resources, a bonus, or a better (cheaper, faster) deal?
  • Do I deserve a better or fairer outcome than I have been offered? If someone were to offer this to me now, would I hesitate to accept it?
  • Am I feeling uneasy or hesitant about the situation or offer? Would a more confident version of me make a request to get a better or fairer outcome?

Advice on tactics to use in negotiation isn’t at all useful if you can’t recognise or engage in opportunities to negotiate. Surveys also show, strangely enough, that women negotiate only about 25% as often as men do, and about 20% of all women never negotiate at all. Some women worry about being perceived as aggressive, others might ignore an opportunity to negotiate due to the stress associated with a potential conflict. Many are simply too conflict-avoidant, and others lack confidence in their ability to influence the outcome.

Keep in mind that not all opportunities are worth engaging in. The costs versus benefits calculation (relative to both the situation and the relationship) simply might not add up. Let’s take an example of a shoe sale. If the shoes are £100, with the potential for a £30 savings in a sale starting tomorrow, you might think, “I can come back tomorrow and save £30, or I can pay the £100 now, and not have to ask the salesperson an uncomfortable question.’’ A question like “Excuse me, but is there a way you can give me the 30% discount today? I’m not around tomorrow’’. In this evaluation, avoiding the discomfort — and the time such a conversation might take —might be worth £30 for some people. But note that in this example, one is considering the negotiation and making a choice about it, as opposed to avoiding the situation altogether.

Evaluating non-monetary issues can be a bit more complicated. Imagine that you share an apartment with a close friend, and from the beginning, you started doing most of the cleaning, cooking, and laundry. When the two of you moved in, you assumed that she would look after herself. She would thank you from time to time, but her perceived laziness has resulted in your growing resentment. You choose not to say anything, afraid of stirring up trouble, but continue doing the majority of the housework. Hints haven’t worked and the occasional request is met with defensiveness or empty promises to help.

You ask yourself: Is this fair? Do I deserve to be in a more equitable situation? Is this a negotiation opportunity? Or is this the way things are and I’m going to have to accept this inequitable situation until the lease ends or I move out? Factoring in individual preferences and comfort levels, one might choose not to negotiate…even when doing so could make a positive difference.

Perhaps it’s due to a fear of failure or a fear of rejection, but the more you ignore conflictual situations that could be improved with negotiation, the more you give such conflicts power over you. That household work discussion you avoided today might evolve into next week’s avoided promotion/raise discussion. The first missed opportunity may result in the degradation of a relationship; the second may result in a serious loss of future earnings. When you consider that a £7,000 starting salary difference over a 43-year career (ages 22-65) adds up to £649,000 (assuming a 3% annual increase), I’m guessing you’ll conclude that it’s very worthwhile to negotiate.

By being mindful about recognising and evaluating potential negotiation opportunities — weighing the financial, emotional, moral, or psychological trade-offs — you not only put yourself in a position to strategically approach how to negotiate for what you deserve (e.g., money, recognition, equitable treatment), but you also open the door to even better outcomes. You’ll learn to improve relationships by working through conflicts. And you’ll build a stronger “negotiation muscle” that will serve you well in higher-stakes negotiations which will undoubtedly permeate into business discussions and negotiations that can add £1,000’s to your bottom line.

If you need some expert help with your negotiating techniques for you or your people, contact us  at ignite@tinderboxbusinessdevelopment.co.uk. or call us on 01162325231

The Tinderbox Team