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4 Steps to Consistent Negotiation Success

By |August 24, 2015


  1. Voice

  2. Persistence

  3. Playfulness

  4. Practice

We fall to our highest level of preparation!

I was in Macy’s looking for jeans. I found the pair I wanted and came back to the salesman with them. I’ve been so focused on the book lately that I’m hardly getting out at all. (In case you haven't heard, I'm writing a book. If we get past all the hurdles, we’re planning on an April release.) And I admit I’m a little out of practice. Negotiation is a perishable skill and one of the things that slips first for me is my voice. I’m a natural assertive and that means my natural voice is horrible. I once had a colleague tell me that talking with me sometimes was like getting hit in the face with a brick. Nice, right?

So I figure to make a run at this guy. Go heavy on the charming, playful, smooth late night FM DJ voice. Have some fun with him and at least coax out a smile. Worst case scenario is I leave him in a good mood. There’s no downside to spreading some good vibes.

“So hey . . . any discounts today? What have you guys got going special today?” (I’m thinking I make at least 2 requests for a discount, use some empathy and as a last ditch go with “The Chris Price”.)

He says no, but if I buy it today and pick it up in 10 days I can get 30% off. (Who thought that up?! That’s weird.)

I tell him I want to take it today (I want to wear them this weekend). “How about if I take them and we pretend I came back in 10 days?” I am smiling and kidding with him and getting a pretty good smile out of him.

He says no so I ask him if he’ll give me his employee discount. (One of my students in my USC class used so much empathy when he bought some expensive skateboarding shoes last spring – and no I’m not skateboarding out here in LA – that the clerk spontaneously gave him his employee discount.)

“If I give you the employee discount I have to pay with my own Macy’s credit card.” says the salesman.

“I’ll pay you baaaaack! I promise!” I respond.

He’s really smiling now. I’m about to go for The Chris Price when he says “Wait here”. He goes to the other side of the store without another word. I see him talking with an older, short grumpy guy who’s shaking his head and saying “No”. He passes by a female employee, she whispers in his ear. He returns to the register and punches in a 20% discount.

People want to help you if you give them the chance and make them feel good about it. In hindsight I realized that each time you make someone feel good, or make them smile you work a little way through their barriers. You’ll probably need 3 good attempts to break through if you’re going to get there. With the 3rd pass at this guy I got there.If you don’t get through, you at least left them feeling better and somehow you have added to the positive karma in the universe. That can’t be bad.

We don’t rise to the occasion; we fall to our highest level of preparation. Rust creeps into my negotiation skills, and yours too, in an invisible manner. It’s very easy to get caught up in our day-to-day endeavors and not stay sharp in our skills, especially if it takes work to stay sharp. I won't do well in an important negotiation without practice and preparation. A great way to accomplish this is to make my day-to-day interactions fun practice and not view negotiation as an attack. I encourage you to do the same.

Remember to use the late night FM DJ voice, be persistent and playful in your ask, and make each interaction of your day practice. This will lead you to consistent negotiation success!

Make some rain! (And have fun!)

Get more prepared for your next negotiation.