4 Tips for Becoming a Better Negotiator

By Miranda Marquit

When it comes to getting the best deal, negotiation is key. This is true whether you’re hoping to get a better price on a car or whether you’re asking for a raise.

No matter your goal, becoming a better negotiator can save you money — or help you make more money. Either way, negotiation can give you a financial advantage.

If you’re trying to become a better negotiator, here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Know the Numbers

Your first step is to understand worth.

When asking for a salary increase, you need to know your own worth. What do you bring to the table? Do you have information about your performance and how it’s impacted the company? Have you compared your salary to those with similar jobs?

Coming in with a knowledge of your worth makes a big difference when you’re trying to get a raise.

A similar knowledge can help you be a better negotiator when making a purchase. Do your research to understand the value of an item. Look online to see if it’s cheaper elsewhere. If it’s a display model, understand that you might be able to get it for less.

Knowing what you can expect to pay for something — and what kind of a discount you should be able to get — can help you save money.

Knowledge really is financial power.

2. Use the Right Body Language

Your presentation makes a difference no matter what you’re trying to negotiate. As you become a better negotiator, you’ll find success when you make the right moves.

First of all, confidence and eye contact go a long way toward getting a better deal. When negotiating the price for my son’s new desk at the store, I came in with an idea of what the desks should cost, as well as an idea of what kind of discount I should be able to get.

I made eye contact with the seller and spoke confidently about other options. We were able to save more than $100 on the desk by the time we were finished.

When asking for a raise, making eye contact and adopting a professional stance makes a big difference in how you’re perceived. You have a better chance at getting the raise, or being hired for the job, if you behave in a way that is appropriate for someone who’s already achieved your objective.

Don’t forget about how you look, either. When visiting a car dealership, you don’t want to appear too affluent, but you also want to make sure it looks like you can afford to buy. You’ll be a more effective negotiator if your outfit conveys the idea that you can buy a car, but that you still have to think about money a little bit.

3. Pay Attention to the Timing

When you negotiate makes a big difference as well.

Pay attention to the timing when you’re asking for a raise. Where are you at in the company’s budget cycle? Have you just managed a “big win” on behalf of the company? When is your boss usually in a better mood?

All of these items can determine whether you’re successful. Try to aim for the right timing. Part of that is when you’ve just had a solid accomplishment that shows your value and part of it is all about where the company is at.

Timing works in other areas of negotiation as well. Pay attention to seasonal items and sales. You can often get a better deal when you get something at the end of the season, or when something new is coming out. I often buy a new computer either just before or just after the latest models come out. I can usually negotiate a discount because the seller is looking to make room for new items.

With cars, buying at the end of the month or calendar year can be a way to get promo pricing and financing. I got thousands of dollars off my car when I bought it in November when the dealer was trying to clear out the previous year’s model — and the salesperson was trying to meet an end-of-the-month quota.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

If you really want to become a better negotiator, you need to practice. Your first attempts might get you a “no” answer. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Like most things in life, negotiation takes practice.

And, sometimes, no matter how good you are, the answer is still no, especially in a work environment. However, it doesn’t have to be a permanent no. Sometimes the budget isn’t just right, or there are other issues. When that happens, gather yourself, do good work, and prepare to ask again later.

As you practice negotiation, you’re likely to see an improvement in your skills and as time goes by, you’ll get more “yes” answers — and make and save more money.