April 26, 2018

Is it ever OK NOT to negotiate?

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I have been thinking about this a lot recently. It used to annoy me greatly when my father would go into a car showroom and ask for a new car: ‘What do you have? OK, I’ll take it.’ I couldn’t understand how the greatest negotiator I had known would not bother to even try to negotiate such a seemingly large purchase. I was sure the dealers in the Edinburgh branch of Mercedes rubbed their hands with glee as they saw him approach.

Upon challenging him, his response was simple: ‘It’s such a trivial matter, Florence. I don’t have time to spend haggling over the deal. I am a very busy man, my time is money and this is a distraction that means nothing to me. Having a good car is important, but managing to get a few hundred quid off the deal is not as important as getting back to my work.’

I have experienced the other side to this. I put in a bid for some work, knowing the buyer was an experienced negotiator and expecting him to haggle a bit. My price was high because it involved being away from home for a long time, but effectively there was room to manoeuvre. I was ready for his challenge, but none came. He sent over an email accepting the deal without question.

I was a little disappointed. First, I had expected to engage in a negotiation, and second, what if I charged way too little?

After working with the company for some years, I spoke to him about the original deal and he admitted to me he had felt very bad about not negotiating with me over the price. He had wanted to challenge it, but he had no time. He needed to sign me up that week and had several other projects that needed his focus urgently. Otherwise, he would have negotiated. He also confirmed that the price was not way too low, and said that, in fact, if it had been any higher he would simply have had to say no.

So is it OK not to negotiate? It is definitely a lost opportunity to do better, because all negotiators think in terms of ranges and not one single price. But if you get what you want at a price you are comfortable with, then what is the harm?

Well, once in a while I can let you off, but, for me, there is always a deal to be had with a little haggle…