FMF shared a great negotiation tip  nearly a week ago (I didn’t see it until it made an appearance on the Consumerist ). The tip is that in negotiations, you should ask for something you don’t really want and then surrender it in discussions so you can get the things you do care about. The beauty of that tip is that you make a concession, the other party will likely make a concession, and you both feel like winners in the deal.
Now, I’ll do you one better, I say that in addition to doing that, you should practice with live ammunition. By this I mean you actually go into entirely throwaway negotiation scenarios. That’s right! You want to buy a Mini Cooper and are scared about negotiating with the dealer? Go to a Honda dealership and practice your negotiation skills on a new Civic. Go to a Ford dealership and try to argue down the price and terms of a Focus. The idea is that you should get your pre-negotiation jitters and your general process inexperience all worked out in similar situations where the outcome isn’t important.
The crucial part of this tip is that you go wholeheartedly through the entire preparation process. You must research the price of the Civic or Focus, you must figure out the strategy you wish to use, and you actually try to execute your plan. For all intents and purposes, you are going to buy that Civic if the deal is what you want… except you won’t. In the process, not only will you learn the dance but you’ll see all the little tricks and tactics the salesperson will employ to get you to seal the deal. Except you won’t, like a prude on prom night. 🙂
I wish I could take credit for coming up with th is idea all on my lonesome but it’s something I know that salespeople use all the time. Cold-calling and lead generation is a tough business, the success ratio is abysmal, and so a lot of folks will practice on impossible calls just to get themselves warmed up. By answering the tough questions with a prospect they believe they can’t possibly get, they loosen up and get used to the game before they go on a call that has a higher chance of a close and is thus more important.
If you have a good negotiation tip, please do share… or tear this one apart.