In Doing More with Our Money #2 ‘Recurring Expenses’, I had talked about convincing service providers to reduce my bills. One was my laptop security subscription discounted by 60% and the other was my home security provider, reducing my monthly bill by 38%.
In that post I said “Don’t worry if you aren’t comfortable having those types of negotiation discussions. We will talk much more about how to best approach negotiations like this in future Doing More with Our Money posts. For now, just do your best!”.
This is one of those future DMWOM posts!
In today’s discussion, we are going to start building a foundation of better negotiation with a very simple idea – Just Ask.
Starting with ‘Just Ask’ will help us convince people to give discounts so we can be Doing More with Our Money.
What do I mean by ‘Just Ask’? It’s kind of like the Nike tag line ‘Just Do It’.
Sure, if you speak to a seasoned negotiator, they will suggest doing several things prior to starting any negotiation, like:
- Plan out the negotiation
- Build a rapport
- Determine the other person’s/companies needs/wants
Etc., etc. etc.
This is all absolutely true, especially with bigger negotiations, but none of it matters if you aren’t comfortable taking the first step to ‘Just Ask’.
If you want to reduce your monthly cell phone bill, it will help if you plan out the discussion, finding a different provider that’s offering better costs, etc.
But often we procrastinate in doing the prep work, or just aren’t sure how to approach it. Then we don’t do the most important thing, which is ‘Just Ask’.
If you want to reduce your cell bill, call customer service and ‘Just Ask’.
If you get dinged with an unwarranted (or warranted!) bank or credit card charge, call or go to the bank and ‘Just Ask’.
If you want a discount on a pricey item at a store, ‘Just Ask’.
I’m not saying you’re always going to get that discount, but you definitely aren’t going to get it if you don’t ‘Just Ask’.
But what if you’re not comfortable with the idea?
Often, even just the thought of it can make us anxious, often due to our fear of rejection.
Remember those grade school dances with all the girls standing on one side of the auditorium and the boys on the other? Few were brave enough to ask someone to dance for fear of rejection, and very public rejection at that!
That very same fear of rejection often prevents us from asking for a discount, as we assume we won’t succeed. Or we feel like an idiot asking or have something else holding us back.
Frankly, we often won’t succeed! In fact, expect to get turned down more often than not. If you become comfortable with that, prepare for success!
It’s like baseball. Typically, a batting average of .300 is consider good. It means the batter got on base 3 out of 10 times. It also means they didn’t get on 7 out of 10 times! And yet, if a batter did that his entire career, he would likely be in the Hall of Fame!
I’m reminded of a Podcast from ‘This American Life’ called ‘Good Guys’. The first part of the episode, they talk about the ‘Good Guy’ discount. One of the producer’s friends told him about a technique he would use to regularly get discounts on purchases.
He describes it as follows: “…where you say, can I get a good guy discount on that? You’re a good guy, I’m a good guy– come on, just, you know, a good guy discount.”
Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? The producer’s friend said it worked for him 15-20% of the time. That’s even less than my baseball example. In preparation for the episode, the producer was told he had to go out and test the technique.
He ‘turned red and started to squirm’ with the thought of having to do it. Frankly, with the wording they were using, I don’t blame him – I’d be hesitant to say to someone “I’m a good guy, you’re a good guy” etc. He ends up trying it with hilarious results, striking out the first four times, but with success the fifth time – he batted .200! Listen to it here.
What I took from that episode wasn’t that we need to use that specific ‘Good guy discount’ technique. I boil it down to something more simple – ‘Just Ask’.
I’m not suggesting you go to a Walmart cashier and ask for a discount – most retail chains aren’t flexible with that, and even if they are, the person manning the till likely won’t have the authority. As such, you should be certainly conscious of where and when you use this or a similar technique, but you should use it and use it often.
If you are still uncomfortable with the idea, it’s important to start by building your confidence. Begin in environments where it’s more common for people to give discounts.
Garage sales, online marketplaces (Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook Market Place, etc.), flea markets, some Mom and Pop shops, etc.
Now, I’m not talking about aggressively pushing a self-employed person to reduce their prices because it’s easier than at Walmart!
We should all support small retail stores, self employed artists, and anyone else brave enough to work for themselves.
But if you are buying a used item from Kijiji or Craigslist and NOT asking for a discount list price, you are definitely leaving money on the table.
Hone your ‘Just Ask’ skills in these environments so that you become much more comfortable when you go after discounts from the big corporations like home security and internet providers.
Feel free to try to get as much as possible from the big guys! Just don’t be a dick to the people you speak with – nobody deserves that!
Often the specific wording doesn’t matter all that much, it’s more about your confidence and persistence. Use the ‘Good guy discount’ technique, or say “you’re trying to reduce your monthly bills, and want to know what options are available”, “is there anything they can do to help with the cost”, “what’s your best price”, etc., etc.
Figure out what works best for you. If you do it often enough, you will refine your wording and will get good at it!
Recent successes for me include a big discount on a toll highway bill, a new martial arts uniform from a local store, and some unexpected bank charges that were warranted, I just didn’t want to pay them!
A recent failure was my monthly internet. I had been with a big telecom for many years and had been paying the same price for the last two years. They sent me a notice for a rate increase. In this case, I did do some homework and planning before ‘Just Asking’, as I know from experience this particular company is not easy to deal with.
I checked their competition and found a good discount to switch. I called my provider, explained the situation, and asked if they could cancel the rate increase. They refused. I spoke with their manager, still nothing. I made it clear that my next call to them would be my last, to inform them of service cancellation. They still didn’t budge.
I’m went forward with the competitor, and am actually saving about 40% now! Funny enough when I called my original provider to cancel their service, they then tried everything to convince me to stay! Of course, by then it was too late, and I was quite happy to be leaving. In the end, it wasn’t a failure at all!
The idea of ‘Just Ask’ is simple enough, but it does take some practice. I encourage everyone to start doing it as often as you can. Make a game of it, challenging your family or friends. See who can have the best success rate, and get the biggest discounts! You just need to start with ‘Just Ask’.
One final thought…When you ‘Just Ask’, is it better to call, email or do it in person, if you have the choice?
In my experience, you will almost always get more when you speak to someone in person, as you see their eyes, their body language, and you can respond in real-time. If in-person is not an option, then a phone call can work too. The downside is you lose seeing their eyes and body language, but you can still hear their tone of voice and respond in real-time. I would suggest avoiding email or instant messaging wherever possible. It can work now and again, but it’s not nearly as effective as in-person or over the phone.
That’s it for this week’s post. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and are ready to go out there and ‘Just Ask’. Becoming more comfortable with this technique will make sure we are all Doing More with Our Money.
As always, feel free to email me or leave comments on my website with any questions or feedback.