Six Ways to be a Better Negotiator in Business

Are you a good negotiator? The “art of the deal” is something nearly everyone aspires to improve, as evidenced by the 21,233 titles listed by Amazon on the topic of “negotiation”. I discovered an unlikely source for learning more about negotiating: reality TV. I’m hooked on The History Channel’s Pawn Stars, which takes place in a pawn shop and features several buyer-seller transactions during each episode.

Here are six tips I’ve gleaned from the show that will help when you are the “seller” – not just at a pawn shop, but in any negotiation.

Be confident. When the buyer asks “How much do you want for it?” state the price with confidence: “My research says that $X is fair market value”, not “I was thinking maybe $X?”

Do your homework. The most successful negotiators come into the pawn shop knowing what their item is worth. They also understand that the buyer needs to make money on the deal too. If it’s not beneficial to both parties, there will be no deal.

Be realistic. Just because the seller thinks his/her item is the best thing since sliced bread, doesn’t mean the buyer will agree. I watched an episode where a woman brought in several pieces of artwork from actor Tony Curtis. An art appraiser who was called in to price the artwork told her Curtis’ pieces just didn’t sell very well. Even with this professional assessment, the woman wanted twice what the appraiser quoted. Needless to say, there was no deal.

Offer quality. Poorly cared-for items don’t get top dollar. Sellers who bring in merchandise that is damaged simply aren’t going to get the best deal. Before bringing an item in for appraisal, it’s best to clean it up. Making that investment ahead of time will reap dividends when it’s time to negotiate.

Keep the end game in mind. I’ve seen many negotiations nearly fall apart on Pawn Stars due to the seller’s need to get the “best deal”. I can’t believe how many people will dicker down to that last ten or twenty dollars (sometimes even $5!) Always have the big picture in mind – is the objective to get the best “deal” or to unload the item?

Maintain perspective. The most satisfied sellers on this show are those who are able to keep their perspective on the transaction – “Hey, I only paid $25 for that at a garage sale and they gave me $100 for it; that’s a great deal!” or “I really didn’t have the space to store this item any longer, so I’m glad I could get a few bucks for it.” Those who express the largest disappointment are those who have an inflexible outlook on the deal – “I really think the buyers missed the boat on this one – my item is worth way more than the price they offered.”

I know that reality TV isn’t all that “real”. Even so, it can be very instructive when watching a very basic element of human interaction: the give-and-take of negotiation.

You may also enjoy my post 5 Ways to Kill Your Chances of Making a Fair Deal, in which I review the “don’ts” for negotiating.




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