About a year ago, I wrote a blog post on the importance of being assertive when it comes to managing your finances. People’s unwillingness to simply ask for more —financially speaking— has always been a pet peeve of mine. Whether it’s buying a car or bargaining at a garage sale, it never hurts to ask for a lower price or for a better deal, yet somehow as consumers we have been conditioned to just accept the price set by merchants without question; something that gets financial talk-show host Dave Ramsey up in arms.
Just recently, I took a dose of my own medicine when it came to my entertainment package. Currently, I have my phone and Internet service with one provider and my TV service with another—something I like to call entertainment-provider diversification. Well, my phone/Internet provider has been calling me lately to “check in” and see how well I am enjoying my service.
As a “courtesy,” they would also like to see if they could save me money on my TV service. I don’t mind service providers doing this. After all, bundling services can sometimes be a more economical way to get what you want, plus I’m in favor of competition as I believe that is one way to get more for less—and that is exactly what happened.
After receiving several calls from the phone/Internet provider, I proceeded to call my TV service provider and let them know that I was thinking of switching my service. The first person I spoke to said that she could offer me $5 off my bill for the next 6 months. I let her know that I would think about it but that I would be calling their competitor to see what they could do for me. She immediately transferred my call to a “specialist.”
After some back and forth with the specialist, they offered to reduce my bill by $10 a month for the next 10 months —a $100 savings— without any contract extensions. Now I know that’s not much, but remember, if I didn’t call and ask, I’d be saving nothing. Ten months from now, I’ll be doing the same thing, and who knows what they’ll offer me for my loyalty. The point is if I didn’t pick up the phone and ask for a better deal, I’d be paying more than I have to for the exact same thing, and who wants to do that? Now, I’m no negotiating expert, but here are a few tips you can use (inspired by Ed Brodow) to help you when it comes to asking for a better deal:
Tip #1 – Ask for what you want.
I wanted either a lower price or more services for the price I was paying. (If I were really smart, I would have asked for both.) You may not get everything you want, but then again you may, so aim high.
Tip #2 – Know your options.
Clearly, there would be no advantage if my TV provider were the only option in the area, so having competition for my business puts me at an advantage when it comes to negotiating. Know what the competition offers and don’t make stuff up. The specialist probably knows what the competitor offers so if you say something that is not true, the specialist will probably call your bluff (i.e. they’ll say they “can’t” offer you a better deal).
Tip #3 – Be willing to walk away (or in this case, switch providers).
You’ll never get a concession if they don’t believe you are willing to follow through on switching providers. Notice that it was after I let the first person know that I’d consider their offer while going to the competition that she transferred me to the specialist.
Tip #4 – Be patient.
Don’t make a phone call five minutes before you’re about to board an airplane. Negotiation takes time. Whether it’s negotiating a better interest rate on a credit card or a lower fee for services, you may have to speak with two or three different people before you get to someone that can truly get you the “best” deal possible.
Tips #5 – Don’t give without getting.
One of the initial offers I received from the specialist was adding additional services, but they wanted me to sign up for a multi-year contract. I let them know that if I signed a multi-year contract, I expected a better deal on the pricing. I got the better pricing without a contract, but I had to forgo the additional services.
Tip #6 – Be courteous.
As a merchant, who would you rather deal with, someone that is loud, obnoxious and rude, or someone who with quiet confidence asks “Is that the best you can do?” One reason I believe many Americans are unwilling to ask for a better deal is fear of confrontation. Confrontation usually occurs when someone is feeling threatened so reduce the chance of confrontation by asking for a better deal in a courteous, non-threatening way.
Always remember, when you ask for a better deal the worst thing they can say is “no,” in which case you are no worse off. This is truly one of those instances where you have nothing to lose and something to gain. It may seem strange at first, but practice the art of asking for a better deal. You’ll be surprised at what you can get for less.