When To Negotiate and When To Let It Go

You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.  It was the title of a popular negotiating course in the 80’s and 90’s.

In one sense, it’s true.  If you don’t ask for what you want, you’re unlikely to get it. The flip side is negotiating for everything is exhausting.  When you approach everything with a negotiation mindset, you will quickly turn into a transaction.

I teach sales teams how to negotiate.  I’ve studied the neuroscience of negotiation and have successfully negotiated seven-figure deals myself.  That’s why people are surprised to find out – in my personal life, I rarely negotiate.  Here’s my take on when to pay full price and when to negotiate:

Pay full price when . . .

  • Service and quality matter
    Do you know what happens when someone makes a price concession?  They start figuring out ways to reduce their time or service investment in the job.  A healthcare client of ours says, “If we’re forced to lower pricing, we use lower-level people to service the account.”

    I have a policy, when tradespeople come into my home to do work, I tell them, “Make sure your quote includes enough time to do an excellent job.”  I’m picky, and I know it.  I don’t want the painter or carpet guy to rush it.  I don’t want them to refuse to make adjustments.  I want them excited about doing their best work.

  • It’s a fair price
    The yard people, cleaning people and other service providers of the world don’t make a lot of money, and they’re usually doing a job you’d rather not do.  The person standing in front of you quoting a job may really need that money, today.  If you ask them to lower their price, they may even desperately agree.  But do you really want to be the person who got five extra bucks off your landscaper?  If they’re quoting you the going rate, and you can afford it, pay it.  I’d rather be the person who gives the housecleaner a Christmas present than the person who bargained with her.

Your choice when . . .

  • The stakes are low
    Your time is worth money.  If something costs under 10 bucks, why spend the mental energy haggling?  Some people love to negotiate.  If it’s fun for you, have at it.  If not, spend your emotional energy elsewhere.  I’d rather spend my vacation time playing in the water than haggling with the guy renting boogie boards.

Negotiate when it’s . . .

  • A high dollar transaction
    If you’re buying a car, it’s unlikely you’re going to have a long-term relationship with the salesperson.  Do your homework, go in at the end of the month when they’re trying to meet their quota, and haggle.  If you really want to play hardball, find their sales board and choose the guy at the bottom.  Trust me, he’s ready to deal.
  • Your salary
    This is the single most important area you need to negotiate.  It has a ripple effect for decades.  Women in particular are often reluctant to negotiate because they believe it diminishes their value.  It doesn’t!  Negotiating demonstrates you have confidence in your value.  Research what you’re worth.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the number you want, and the package you desire.  They will never want you more than when they make the offer.  Make sure you’re getting the best one you possibly can.