Best Negotiation Practice Exercises / by Lewis Lin

SEE ALSO: 60+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

This guest post from Christine Ko, my co-author for our latest salary negotiation book, Five Minutes to a Higher Salary.

Want to practice your negotiation skills? You probably shouldn’t use your salary negotiation for practice, so let’s look at some ways you can get comfortable negotiating in low stress, low pressure situations.

The Farmer’s Market

WhyUnlike at a superstore, you’re probably buying from the owners of the farm at the farmer’s market. Since they own the merchandise, they decide which prices to set their products.

HowIf you see that a particular item you want is not selling well, try to see if they’ll accept a lower price for it. After all, getting something out of a product is better than getting nothing. 
If you’re buying multiple items from the same vendor, ask if they’ll give you a bulk discount.
If you’re buying with cash when they accept cards, ask if you can get a small discount by paying in cash instead of credit so that they don’t have to pay any transaction fees.
If you’re shopping near the close of the farmer’s market, check out any vendors that still have perishables for sale, such as produce or food products. Since these items will not last very long, the vendors will often want to sell their product for some money instead of tossing all the items in the dumpster.

Goal - Practice this skill: Know the best timing to start negotiations. A farmer's market is often a bustling center of activity, so it's important to know when to negotiate and when to walk away. For example, if there's a line behind you at a vendor's stall and they all want a certain item, it's not the time to negotiate it. They simply don't need to negotiate because there are plenty of people to buy. Timing is also important when considering perishable items. As stated above, it's crucial to wait until the farmer's market is nearly over to start negotiating on products with a short shelf life or else they won't have an incentive to sell their products cheaply.

An Apartment

Why: Empty rooms will cost the landlord money whether it is occupied or not, so they definitely have an incentive to have tenants. It helps if you already live in the building and have a clean rental record. It is a lot more work for the landlord to get a new tenant than keep an existing one, so they can usually wiggle the rent a little bit to keep you there.

How: Research other similar apartment buildings in the area and compare prices. You can also hint that you’re considering moving out and not renewing your lease. If you don’t get complaints filed against you and you pay your rent on time, it is risky for the landlord to lose you in case he/she gets an unruly tenant in your place.

Goal - Practice this skill: Go to the negotiation prepared with your BATNA (Best Alternatives to a Negotiated Agreement). Find other apartments you can rent in case negotiations don't go your way. You should always have backup options. 

Garage Sales

Why: People usually hold garage sales for two reasons.

1) To get rid of stuff they don’t want or need
2) To make some quick cash
3) To make room in the house or lighten their belongings before a move

In short, they want this stuff gone.

How: If you buy more than one item, ask them to give you a discount. Always quote lower than what you’re willing to pay because they’ll probably try to make you a counter offer. Just ask “Will you take $X for this?”

Goal - Practice this skill: Try seeing the negotiation from the other party's perspective. Imagine that you want the golf clubs that your neighbor is selling. You can ask them plainly "What will you do with the golf clubs if nobody buys them?" They might say "I could sell them online for $50, but I'd rather do it here so I don't have to ship it across the country." Now you have a little more information and you can offer $55 for the golf clubs knowing that their backup option is getting $50. 

Furniture Store

Why: furniture stores often mark up their prices so that when there is a sale, it looks like a great deal. Furniture styles also go out of fashion quickly, so having inventory quickly leave the floor is important. Another factor: commissions. A big reduction for you might mean a small reduction in their commission: something that a sales agent is willing to do if they really need a sale.

How: Mention any small defects that you notice in the furniture. While it might not really matter to you, the sales agent might give you a discount to make up for it. Another tactic is to look for a style/color/model that the store currently doesn’t have in stock. Act like you really wanted that specific type, but you’re willing to “settle” for a different style/color/model if the price was a little cheaper.

Goal - Practice this skill: Give up something you don't care about to get something you do care about. In this scenario, you give up something you don't care about (a perfect, defect-free, in style, exact color couch) for something you do care about (a cheap but quality couch). 

With Internet/Cable/Cell phone Provider

Why: The reason you can negotiate these bills is similar to why you can negotiate your rent: it’s easier for them to renew a contract than to find a new customer. They want to keep you as a customer because you’ll probably renew your contract again and buy more products and services from them.

How: Research the other providers in your area and compare prices. If you see better prices at another company, ask your preferred company if they can match it. You can also threaten to not renew the contract and buy from another company.

Goal - Practice this skill: Be willing to listen. With internet/cable/cell phone, not all providers all the same. While in general they provide the same service, there will be differences in their implementation. Maybe you found that another provider has lower prices, but when you reach out to a customer representative of your current provider, they tell you that the difference in price is due to a difference in speed or reliability. If you solely focus on what you know and not on what the other party says as well, you're missing out on valuable information. Perhaps once you know your current provider is faster and more reliable, you'll want to continue purchasing from them even if they are more expensive. 

Negotiation is a skill that you can foster in many situations. Practicing these skills and tactics will make you more likely to
a) be more comfortable negotiating
b) learn new tactics as you come across new situations
c) recognize situations where negotiation is possible.

Good luck and let us know if you successfully negotiated in any of these situations! We would love to hear from you.

SEE ALSO: 60+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

Photo credit to Flazingo Photoskaybee07Wicker Paradise