The Negotiator Magazine

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Dear Kurt,

The way to move from price or any other single element negotiation is to simply identify and strategically use all the related components of a deal. Let’s look at one negotiation as your example.

A year ago I set out to buy a used particular model of a convertible car. I wanted a white body and a tan top in excellent condition.

Cars of this type came on the market every once and a while, but always sold quickly. After several disappointments, I found one that just had gone on sale at a dealership for a price that was within the going sales range. Of course, as a negotiator, I set out to get the best deal possible.

The car looked and drove well and despite some attempts to negotiate the car’s price the dealer stood firm. “I can sell this car at this price today or certainly tomorrow,” the sales manager stated and I knew he was right.

Rather than continue on the price issue, I told the dealer that my goal was to buy a car in excellent shape and I would agree to the asking price so long as the car was in top condition. I was assured that they would agree to that caveat.

At this point the salesperson felt the deal was done and was counting his commission as the sales manager prepared to mark-up another sale on board. What they did not note was that the power in this negotiation had shifted dramatically. Both men had fallen under the spell of that dangerous demon the led them to protect their newly-won gains as a negotiating priority. Now, of course, the real negotiations were about to begin.

First there was the matter of the condition of the car to be settled. After independent inspection by a mutually accepted third party, it was discovered that the brakes needed some repair, all fluids were due for an expensive replacement, the tires were somewhat worn and the car was missing the cover for the convertible top. The dealer agreed to do all the repairs, provide new tires and to order a new top cover. For the dealership, it was at their wholesale cost of parts and in-house service labor. For me, improvements approaching two thousand dollars at retail brought the vehicle to excellent condition. Its price, of course, remained the same.

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