Negotiation. This word alone can raise the heart rate of most people. “Negotiating” brings to mind visions of business executives savagely jostling over decimal points or car salesmen going through three rounds of “asking their manager” if they can make a special exception just this one time to cut you a deal on a Honda. Most of us hate negotiating. And for good reason. But I have found what I believe is the best negotiating question and it has made my fear of negotiating diminish significantly.
The truth of the matter is that there are two reasons many people don’t like negotiation. The first is that we perceive it as conflict and most of us are conflict averse. The second reason is that most people aren’t very good at it. Sure, we may know the basics of reciprocity or that you never want to throw out the first number. However, most of us aren’t trained int he art of negotiation and our perception is that the person we are negotiating with is better at it than we are.
While in-depth training in negotiation is beyond the scope of a simple blog post and frankly, I’m not qualified to act as an expert, I can offer you one helpful tip that I’ve had a lot of success with in my life. There is one question that you can ask that will save and/or make you hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your life.
Is that the best you can do?
The best negotiation question
“Is that the best you can do?” or variations such as “Is this your best offer?” or “Is that the lowest that you’ll go?” is a surprisingly effective question. It’s simple. It doesn’t require a long build up as to why you believe that you deserve a lower price, higher salary, more service, or whatever it is that you are asking for.
Asking more than once
Asking this question will work fairly often. However, the real power of asking “is that the best you can do” opens up when someone doesn’t budge. When you ask the question and the person on the other side of the table answers that yes, it is indeed the best that they can do, you have two choices. You can accept that and pay the price, or you can challenge them one more time. I prefer to challenge them one more time.
In some cases, the first offer or existing price really will be the best that can be done. However, in many cases, when you ask the question, the seller will answer that it is the best price simply as a means of calling your bluff. They believe that you will purchase anyway if they assure you that you are getting the best price. By asking the same question a second time, perhaps slightly modified with a “that’s just not going to work for me…are you sure that’s the lowest you can go?” then they know you mean it. The next step will either get you a lower price, or ensure that you were indeed originally getting the best deal.
Keep in mind that asking more than once shouldn’t only be used when they don’t drop the price. When a seller makes a slight concession, that is also a great time to ask again. Chances are that they came back to you with a lower price trying to “meet you in the middle” or knowing that you might still ask for a lower price. So ask.
Using the best negotiation question
It’s as simple as that. Ask. Ask again. Repeat as needed. I have actually asked some form of this question up to five times in a row, when I felt that there was still a better deal to be had. I have used this tactic in salary negotiations, car buying, purchasing sports tickets, getting work done around my house, and dozens of other times. If you aren’t fully comfortable with negotiating, or asking this question, test it out in a relatively low-pressure situation like a garage sale, flea market or, if you are less intimidated behind a screen, on OfferUp or Craigslist.
If you decide to use what I believe is the best negotiation question, hit us up in the comments and let us know how it goes.