In this economy, negotiating with vendors is a vital survival tactic for any small business. Here are six mistakes to avoid so you can strike the best possible deal.
1. Make a reasonable offer
Believe it or not, a reasonable offer can be a mistake. You can get a much better deal if you make an offer that is much lower than the price the seller is after.
"'Ridiculous works," says business coach Bert Martinez. Ridiculous is your offer being miles apart from what the other party wants. "You would be surprised how often you offer ridiculous, and you will either get the price or get something close to the price."
For example, Martinez once had a client who wanted to make a multi-million dollar media buy during the television show The Apprentice. He offered a very low amount for that commercial time and was able to save his client about 60 percent. The trick? Media is a perishable product, and if Martinez's client didn't buy that time, the seller may not have made any sale. In this case, a ridiculous offer was worth accepting.
This works because many negotiators aren't prepared to be miles apart when making a deal. Having to work harder to bridge that gap can put pressure on a seller to give more concessions.
2. Allow fear to stop you from asking
People are often afraid to insult sellers by making a low offer, which is "a total fallacy," says Michael Soon Lee, president of EthnoConnect and author of Black Belt Negotiating. "What is the seller going to say? 'No, I won't sell it to you because you offered half'?" Lee is another fan of the ridiculous offer, which he says smart sellers know is part of negotiation.
Martinez says sometimes we're afraid of losing the respect of negotiating partners. But if the offers are friendly and made in a way that lets the seller feel like a winner, you have nothing to lose. "Everything is negotiable," Martinez says.
3. Settle for your price
Money isn't everything, and price isn't the only thing that you can negotiate. "What if you got your price plus some other concessions?" asks Martinez. "Strike while the iron's hot."
Remember, everything is negotiable. That includes terms of payment, delivery, accessories and even warranties.
4. Not doing homework
Preparation is everything.
"The more you know about the person you will be dealing with and the dynamics of the situation or numbers to be negotiated, the more effective you will be at getting the very best price; buying or selling," says Brian Tracy, author of Earn What You're Really Worth. That knowledge can help you understand the value of what you are trying to buy or what will motivate the seller to come closer to your offer.
For example, Lauren Russ, principal at Connect Communications, says she tends to buy computers from Dell at the end of the fiscal quarter. "We do this because we know that Dell, like every other company, wants to meet and exceed their quarterly numbers. They’re far more likely to offer greater discounts when they’re about to close out their quarter."
5. Continue negotiating
There are some offers you cannot accept. Part of this is doing your homework and knowing what you can afford to pay. It's also a powerful negotiation tactic.
"Another time to use the walk-away strategy is when you really don’t care whether or not you are successful in this negotiation," says Tracy. "The power of indifference in a negotiation, real or pretended, gives you an advantage against a negotiator who is more determined to succeed."
8. Give in to deadline pressure
You need time on your side.
"There's a whole culture of getting it done today," says Martinez. That often drives people to offer concessions when they need a deal to happen sooner rather than later. Martinez and Russ use this time pressure to get better deals on media buys and computers. But they don’t put themselves into similar time crunches.
And neither should you. After all, everything is negotiable, even deadlines.
Carl Natale is a recovering journalist who now blogs about how small business owners can develop and improve their businesses. He shares ideas and tips on CarlNatale.com and as @CarlNatale on Twitter.
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