Negotiate like a pro.
[A four minute read]
I am usually a calm and positive person. But I fall from grace when businesses fail to deliver, frustrate me with illogical and infuriating processes and waste my time.
It kinda makes me want to flip a table. But then I remember that strategy is far more effective than tantrums and it’s helped me win a few corporate battles over time.
A little while ago, on the eve of the Australian Census deadline my telco [code name: T-Dog] suddenly cut off my phone and internet for not paying a bill that was meant to be a credit. With no comms and a criminal record looming, I poured myself a glass of wine and eased the frustration by writing this dossier on negotiating.
Negotiating from a place of frustration like my T-Dog situation is a very different situation to regular business negotiations [like negotiating with a venue] though ultimately both scenarios are relationship management and a value exchange – that is the key.
Here is the game plan.
1. Feedback is a gift.
If you have an existing positive relationship, that person/business is worthy of your feedback because you want them to succeed. There is a strong chance they will take your feedback on board and do better, which benefits everyone.
If you have no existing relationship and had a really dismal experience, then the best way you can get revenge is the silent treatment. Just do nothing and let it go.
Because feedback is a gift and sometimes it’s not deserved.
2. Is it worth it?
Sometimes negotiations can take a while. It’s important to ask yourself how invested you are in getting what you want.
My bank recently decided an obviously fraudulent $99.95 transaction was legit. I could have proven them wrong and got my $99.95 back, but my time is worth more. I knew it would take hours on the phone and months of waiting.
So I cut my losses, closed my account and made my loss their loss.
3. Know your rights.
I am not a lawyer, but I like reading, freebies and winning. My favourite clauses from NSW Law:
1. “Consumer guarantees apply to both [major and minor problems]. When goods fail to meet a consumer guarantee, the consumer can also claim for consequential losses – compensation for their costs in time and money because something went wrong.” [Fair Trading]
This means if your fridge broke too soon and you lost all your food, you would be entitled to compensation for the food as well as having the fridge repaired/replaced/refunded. If you run a business and your internet is constantly crashing and you have spent way too long trying to fix it, you might be able to claim for your lost time.
2. “Consumer guarantees which apply regardless of any warranties suppliers sell or give to you, apply for a reasonable time depending on the nature of the goods or services. This means consumer guarantees may continue to apply after the time period for the warranty has expired.” [Fair Trading]
This clause is how I got my 2 year old dead MacBook replaced, because it is reasonable to expect a quality laptop would last more than 2 years. It also means that *sometimes* extended warranties are a waste of money, because you are covered by Australian Consumer Law [ACL] anyway. Read more via an ABC article here.
4. Do you have a case?
Is your argument valid, moral and fair?
Negotiations need a solid foundation, particuarly if you are going to invest time pursuing an outcome. Have you contributed to the outcome at all? E.g. if your delegates trashed the hire furniture, why should the hire company waive the damage fees?
It’s a lot easier to negotiate if you know that you honestly have a case. If you were the business, would you think it is fair to agree to your requested outcome/compensation?
My ex-gym once tried to charge me crazy exit fees, even though I was past the minimum 12 month contract term. I joined on a ‘first 2 months free’ offer and they were arguing the contract term was effectively 14 months. Except the contract only referred to the ‘joining date’ not the ‘first payment date’ and no-one mentioned otherwise to me when I joined.
Eventually I was released without charge, but it took a hearing date for them to realise it wasn’t worth their time. I’ve told so many people that story when I could have been sharing referrals.
The whole point of a contract is that it is crystal clear and leaves no room for misinterpretation. If something is hazy, the contract hasn’t been written properly.
ALWAYS clarify before you sign a contract.
Before you take action, think like a business – this is a value exchange not a ransom.
Every time we received a new supplier quote, my former colleague would say “that’s ridiculous, tell them to do it cheaper”. Ask yourself why a business would cut their profits for you.
What are your leverage points?
> Have you been a loyal customer for a long time?
> Always paid your account on time?
> Is it the first time this situation has occurred?
> Have you referred other people to them before?
> Do you have the potential to bring them future business?
> How badly do they need you as a customer?
> What might their barriers to helping you be, and how can you overcome them?
> Do you have a large social media following you can drop into conversation [as a last resort]?
> Have you read up on the relevant laws and ombudsman enough to mention it confidently?
What is your ideal outcome? At what point would you accept a compromise and walk away?
6. Play nice.
If someone started screaming at you, would you help them? Playing nice goes a long way.
> Be charming, stay cool, even when angry or upset. This is an adult negotiation, not a tantrum.
> Choose your words carefully and concisely. Don’t waffle on – just convey the facts.
> Speak confidently and imagine them saying ‘yes’ [this works great with new job negotiations].
> Remember you are dealing with another human. Make it easy for them to want to help you.
> Don’t interrupt them unless absolutely necessary – they deserve the right to respond.
> NEVER yell or threaten – it’s a fast way to close the door on negotiations.
> Be persistent – if you are getting nowhere, calmly and firmly ask to speak to a manager.
> Keep the big picture and your leverage points front of mind.
> Be reasonable, and expect the same from them.
Remember, I’m no lawyer. Do your own research and seek professional advice if things get hairy.