Negotiating for Negotiaphobics: Negotiate Better With This One Skill

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I am a bad negotiator.  I hope you won’t remember that when I write my first post on six tips to negotiate successfully.  When I recognized how poorly I negotiated, I decided to buy the book Negotiating For Dummies.  It was a dollar at a second hand store so I thought I could learn something.  Unfortunately, the book did not give me a single tool that I actually applied.  Theoretically, the ideas sounded good, but I eventually decided it was not for me  But, I have since learned one negotiating tip can help all negotiaphobics improve their negotiating skills.

How to Negotiate When You Are Afraid of Negotiating

Currently, I only have one negotiating rule:

When appropriate, ask, “Is that the best you can do?”

I may be a bad negotiator, but I am also a pretty determined guy.   I came across the “Is that the best you can do?” question while reading Free Money Finance blog.  I decided that I would give it a try.  The plan was simple.  While purchasing something out of the ordinary (not gasoline, groceries, or clothing) I would just ask, “Is that the best you can do?” 

I am elated to report that I am experiencing a 20% success rate.

Why be happy with a 20% negotiating success rate?

I am finding that probably about 80% of the time I ask the question, I am getting the following response: “Yes, we can’t go any lower because …” I asked when buying a computer – they said no more discounts.  I asked when trying to get a discount on a damaged product – they said no more discounts.  I asked when purchasing multiple items at a store – they said no more discounts. 

Despite only a 20% success rate, here are 3 reasons why I give this negotiating tip the MH4C Seal of Approval:

  1. I never once felt dumb when someone said “Yes, that is the best we can do.”  In fact, often times I think the sales person was embarrassed to say they couldn’t do any better.  Thus, the emotional cost might be a 1 – 2 on a scale of 10.  It’s not a big deal to ask the question.
  2. While my success rate is only about 20%, if I were to compare this percentage to the alternative of not asking the question, I am now experiencing 20% more success at negotiating for purchases. 
  3. Over the last few months I have saved about $300 for asking the question about a dozen times.  Hey, in my books that’s a pretty good savings.  How many other questions can earn you an average of $25 per question.

Three success stories:

Termite Treatment

After discovering our home had dry wood termites I contacted a couple of pest control companies.  They both gave us the same price quote.  One company offered some additional pest services while the other offered a longer warrantee period.  I called the company with the shorter warrantee period and explained the situation and asked if they could do any better on their quote.  We ended up getting three additional months of warrantee on the product as well as a complimentary second visit – just because I asked. 

Document Filing

Right now I’m working at helping some missionaries (myself included) renew their work permits.  Our law firm sent us a quote.  Because of my negotiating phobia I love email negotiating (which I recognize is much less effective than fact to face).  I sent an email back after we got the quote and said, “Can you do any better with the price?”  We received an email back and the firm dropped 10% off the price – a savings of just over $200. 

Kudos to Papa Ford

About a month ago my dad was flying internationally from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles.  The airline had changed his flight itinerary which required him to rebook some connecting flights.  When he arrived to check in, dad politely explained his situation (the flight change and implications) and asked if they might be willing to offer a complimentary upgrade.  They agreed and he got to coast across the Pacific in a higher flight class. 

30 Day Negotiating Challenge

Over the next month, any time you shop for a non-typical item just ask, “Is that the best you can do?”  If you judge your success by one or two positive responses, then I guarantee you will find that the simple question saves money and does not cause a lot of emotional discomfort. 

Photo by Mel B.

Anyone have any recent negotiating success stories?


  1. says

    I’m not the best negotiator but I love a challenge and love to think I’ve “won” in some sense…so am less and less afraid to ask. When renting this house – it was listed at $285 AUD per week. We offered $275 – they agreed to rent it to us at $280. Saves us $5 per week which sounds minimal…but over a year its a savings to be thankful for. And recently when purchasing another car seat…I asked “is that the best you can offer?”. They said it was already discounted but they gave us two complimentary car seat fittings – valued at $60. One for the new seat and one for Ella’s (which we didn’t even purchase at that store). I’d loved to have gotten a further monetary discount but was happy for this service since car seat laws and installation requirements are pretty strict here and we weren’t really aware of them.

    • Craig says

      You point out something we all need to remember about negotiating – even when people cannot drop the price they might be able to add an extra service or other customer benefit. Be creative and think outside the box.

  2. says

    This sounds a lot like a Dave Ramsey negotiating tip – where he says when you get their best offer, you should just say “that’s not good enough”. Then you have to be willing to walk away from the deal if they won’t sweeten the pot. Don’t marry yourself to a deal and have the power of walking away. Another one of his tips? Shut up. Say that’s not good enough, and then shut up – and let them talk you into a good deal. Often when you just let their be silence they’ll feel uncomfortable, and start giving you things. I’ve found this to be true.
    .-= Peter´s last blog ..$6500 Homebuyer Tax Credit For Current Homeowners Signed Into Law Today. Is It Retroactive? =-.

  3. Miguel @ Great Stops says

    What a geat blog post. I am also a very bad at Neg. But I like your idea, I also find that bringing someone else along helps alot in making the right decisions and not forcing anything. Kinda like a wingman, to watch and make sure I don’t shy away.

    Good Job and Nice Blog!

  4. says

    That is a nice, easy tip anyone can try. It reminds me of Ramits negotiating for salaries tip on never giving a salary range at an interview. Sure, it might work, but I don’t know if I could hang in there for a grilling if I kept getting asked how much I want to make.
    .-= Writers Coin´s last blog ..My Stock Pick for 2010 =-.

  5. Wes Smith says

    Great advice Craig. One other tactic that is fairly simple that I have employed recently is to offer cash and ask for a discount. The merchant you are dealing with does not mind giving up the fees he has to pay Mastercard/Visa. I used this to get a much needed discount with the Orthodontist and a Window Installer.

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