Photo: Flickr / Kanaka Menehune
When you’re dead set on getting a bargain, play it smart. You can’t expect the other guy to hand you what you want just because you asked for it. And you’ve got to have some excellent negotiation strategies in your back pocket just in case.
In his excellent book, Getting More, Stuart Diamond explains how being incremental is the key to winning almost any showdown.
The idea is that by taking the negotiation step by step, you’ll build a foundation in order to get to a solution with more ease. It’s the difference between saying, ‘Give me what I want!’, versus ‘Do you want to make a sale?’ Diamond explains:
“If they say at the beginning that they want to reach an agreement, but later start making outrageous demands, you can ask the other party how this dovetails with their indication that they wanted to reach an agreement … In a negotiation, you should lead people from the familiar to the unfamiliar, step-by-step. The more difficult the situation, the smaller the steps you have to take, and the more steps you’ll need.”
It may take some time, and in practice it can come off sarcastic since you’re questioning what’s happening at every turn. But trust us, it works.
Diamond describes what happened when a guy named Rocky went to pay a traffic ticket at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The building had a sign that said, “No personal checks accepted.” Yet the back of the ticket said to mail checks to that building’s address. He asked the clerk what to do since a personal check was all he was carrying:
“‘It says on the back of my ticket that I can mail a personal check to the address listed here. Is that right?’ … ‘Yes,’ the clerk replied. … ‘And where exactly in this building do the checks come that are mailed in?’ … ‘Why that desk over there,’ said the clerk, gesturing to a desk about six feet away.
“‘Could I ask you a question? Is there something special about that six feet? Six feet away, a personal check is OK. Six feet closer, a personal check is not OK .. What if I take my check and put it in an envelope and waft it over you and it lands on the desk over there? Can I pay by check that day?”
Turns out he could—and he did.
This tact doesn’t always work, but if you combine it with framing, or present a problem in a way that’s amenable to the other party, you’ll get close. Just keep in mind that when you nudge someone step-by-step, you might only wind up with part of what you were after. In that case, take what you can get, advises Diamond. You can always come back the next day.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.