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How to negotiate (4 key rules to getting what you want)

Negotiating is a skill — and like any other skill it can be learned, honed, and mastered. To do that, though, you need to be able to follow the rules that’ll help you develop yourself into a master negotiator.

The 4 rules to negotiation

1. Find what you can negotiate (most things are negotiable, but not everything) 

2. Focus on win-win agreements (this is what the BEST do)

3. Do plenty of research before every negotiation

4. Practice negotiating relentlessly

After you read the rules, I included a few scripts that’ll help you dominate your negotiations. Be sure to read everything so you can get the most out this article.

Bonus: You can negotiate to earn more money OR, you can follow an easy step-by-step guide with my FREE Ultimate Guide to Making Money

Negotiation rule #1: You can negotiate most things — but not everything

Here’s a hard truth about negotiations AND life: You’re not entitled to everything — and that includes a deal on that car you want.

Unfortunately, sometimes you’re just going to have to eat the costs because you simply can’t negotiate everything — but you CAN pick your battles, because the right ones can save or make thousands of dollars for you.

And there’s still a lot you CAN negotiate.

In fact, here’s a list of just a FEW of the things you probably didn’t know you could negotiate — I know because I’ve both done it before AND have taught thousands of people to do it themselves.

  • Car insurance
  • Cell phone plan
  • Gym membership
  • Cable
  • Rent
  • Credit card

Check out my video on negotiating your bills below to find out more.

Bonus: For the exact word-for-word scripts that I used to negotiate my bills, even in trying times, download my FREE Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance

Negotiation rule #2: Negotiating is NOT a win/lose situation

People seem to think that someone has to get screwed over in a negotiation to get what you want — but that’s completely backwards.

Of course, you can’t just make a demand and expect the other person to give it to you — you have to make a case for it.

Credit card, insurance, and cell phone companies are willing to offer discounts to keep high-value customers. And an employer is equally happy to give a raise to keep an employee who does fantastic work and provides value every day.

You’ll hear some people say “no” but I promise you’ll be surprised by how many people say “yes!”

As long as you prepare and are ready to make your case, salary negotiation becomes a lot less scary.

To that end, you also need to realize that negotiations don’t have to be adversarial.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You want to approach every negotiation with care and nuance. After all, the salesman and you are in this together and both of you want the exact same thing: to get a good deal.

With that in mind, when confronted with a denial to an offer, rather than casting it as you vs. them on different “sides” (i.e. “OMG THESE PRICES ARE AWFUL. YOU MUST BE CRAZY…plz give me a good deal?”), you’ll want to say something like, “We’re close, but we just need to find a good fit here.” Or, “Let’s find something that works for both of us.”

Negotiation rule #3: Do your research

When it comes to negotiating anything — whether it be your car bill, insurance, rent, whatever — you need to make sure that you’ve done plenty of research beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll be going into negotiations without a single clue as to what exactly you’re negotiating for.

It’s like going into a big test for school — do you think you’re going to do well if you don’t study? Nope. Same with negotiations.

Here are a few areas in your life where you can negotiate — and what you should be researching to be prepared for the negotiations.

How to negotiate your cell phone bill

  • Find comparable plans for your usage on other cell phone networks. Not only will this give you a good idea of how fair your current plan is, but it will also give you a solid bargaining chip when you’re negotiating later.
  • Know how much you’re currently paying. You’re going to want to know exactly how much you’re paying so you’ll be able to make a sound argument to the cell phone company rep later for why you deserve a lower rate.

Here are the numbers of the major cell phone networks you can call today:


How to negotiate your car insurance coverage

  • Check to see if you have the right amount of coverage. If you’re young or just new to car insurance, chances are you didn’t know which coverage option to choose initially. As such, you might have ended up picking a more expensive option while seeing none of the benefits because they don’t apply to you.
  • Figure out your current plan. Find out what your plan is and how much you’re paying. If you don’t have your current info in front of you, how can you hope to save? Call your insurance company or check their website for this information.
  • Shop around for other insurance companies. I prefer talking to a rep on the phone because they always tell me about other deals that the websites don’t offer. Once you get a few solid numbers and compare them to what you’re currently paying, you’re going to be able to make a sound argument with your insurance rep as to why you should get a lower rate.

Here are the phone numbers of the big insurers you can call today:

State FarmYou can get to their auto insurance site here.

How to negotiate your rent

  • Look up the average price for an apartment your size in your city/neighborhood using Zillow or Craigslist. This will help you determine a solid rent reduction percentage. Before you call up your landlord, you need to have a goal in mind — whether it be a certain price or percentage you want to see negotiated.
  • Have something ready in return. You can’t just tell your landlord, “I want to take $200 per month off my rent” and expect them NOT to laugh in your face. You need to be ready to offer something to them in return.Here are a few things many landlords will happily lower rent for:
    • Prepay months in advance
    • Sign an extended lease
    • Offer to extend the termination notice from 30 days to 60 or 90 days
    • Offer to give up your parking space if you don’t have a car
    • Promise not to smoke in the apartment thereby saving the landlord money when you move out
    • Promise not to keep pets even if they’re allowed
    • Make a deal for referrals if they have low occupancy

If you know what they want and can offer it to them, your chances of succeeding in negotiation increase significantly.

Bonus:If the COVID-19 pandemic has you worried about money, check out my free Coronavirus Proofing your Finances guide and protect your money during this pandemic!

How to negotiate your salary

  • Write out the ways you’re going to add value to the company. To any boss or hiring manager, the best incentive for a salary raise is knowing that it’s going to a worker who has added value and WILL add value. Knowing this, you’re going to want to prepare a case for yourself to showcase how you’re a person completely deserving of the rate you’re asking for.That’s why I want you to utilize The Briefcase Technique and compile a proposal showcasing the specific areas in the company wherein you can add value. You’re going to bring this 1-5 page proposal with you when you negotiate salary, so when the question of compensation arises, you can pull out the document and outline how exactly you’re going to solve the company’s challenges.Hiring manager: So what’s your price range?You: Actually, before we discuss compensation, I’d love to show you something I put together.And then you literally pull out your proposal document detailing the pain points of the company and EXACTLY how you can help them. IWT bonus points if you actually use a briefcase.By identifying the pain points the company is experiencing, you can show the hiring manager where specifically you’re going to add value — making you a very valuable hire.I go into even more detail on The Briefcase Technique in this 2-minute video. Check it out below.
  • Know the exact salary you want. If you don’t have a hard number when you walk into salary negotiations with your boss or hiring manager, you’re going to be at the mercy of someone who does this for a living and will control the conversation.To that end, there are a few great resources for you to find a good number to start with:
    • This is a great website for both employers and job seekers to compare compensation rates for specific jobs across a huge variety of companies.
    • Though this site primarily acts as a “Yelp for jobs,” it also includes an incredibly handy salary tool that allows you to look at the national average salary for your job as well as the average rate of compensation in your city.
    • This website sends you a personalized salary report based on a questionnaire you fill out regarding your career history. It’s especially great for recent college grads.
    • Ask a friend: Do you know anyone who has worked in this field before? Maybe a friend of yours has been in the industry for a few years. Ask them how much they were paid — as well as advice on how much you should ask for as well.
    • Google it: A search as simple as “average digital marketer salary” will give you a wealth of information that you can use.

In my 6-minute video below, I go more in-depth on how exactly you can absolutely crush your salary negotiations. Check it out.

Negotiation rule #4: Practice relentlessly

How do musicians get to Carnegie Hall? The same way you save hundreds every year through negotiations. PRACTICE.

Most people will lose tens of thousands of dollars over their lives due to their failure to practice negotiations. Actually, most people won’t negotiate at all. Even when people DO negotiate, they won’t practice.

They’ll say things like:

  • “It feels weird.”
  • “Who would I practice with?”
  • “What do I say?”

IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!! That’s why you’re practicing.

As I always say: Don’t shoot your first basket in the NBA. After all, if you don’t practice, you’ll be going into negotiations cold with a hiring manager whose job is to negotiate all day.

So find a friend or family member to run through tactics with. You can even go to your local farmers market and haggle for small items or try negotiating on Craigslist. Every little bit helps.

And remember: Sometimes you’re going to get shut down by whomever it is you’re negotiating with — that’s why you need to prepare the Door-in-the-Face technique.

Imagine there’s a nonprofit worker soliciting donations to a homeowner.

Nonprofit worker: “Hi, would you like to donate $50 to the Save The Whale Foundation?”

Homeowner: “Hell no.”

Nonprofit worker: “Okay, how about $5?”

Homeowner: “Hmm okay, sure.”

See what the nonprofit worker did? He knew he wasn’t ever going to get $50 — but he also knew that if he gave a drastically reduced amount after his initial ask, the homeowner would be much more susceptible to donating.

It doesn’t matter if you’re negotiating your salary or for a lower price on that new car — leverage this technique when you can.

If you’re negotiating, odds are you’ll fail — but that’s totally fine. You should EXPECT failure. Embrace it. And plan accordingly by turning “failure expectation” into domination.

Those are the rules to negotiation. Internalize and follow them if you want to truly become an amazing negotiator.

Scripts for negotiations

Below are two great scripts that I have used that helped me save hundreds of dollars a year on my cell phone bill as well as my car insurance. Of course, you’re going to want to tailor each script for your specific needs.

Cell phone bill

You: Hi, I was looking at my plan and it’s getting pretty expensive. Could you tell me what other plans you have that would save me money?

Cell phone rep: I’m sorry, sir. I can only offer you the same plans as on the website. Blah blah blah.

You: What about any plans not listed on the website?

Cell phone rep: No, what we have is listed on the website. Plus, you’re on a contract and have an early cancellation fee of $XXX.

You: Well, I understand that, but I’d be saving $XXX even with that cancellation fee. Look, you know times are tough so I’m thinking of switching to [COMPETITOR COMPANY]. Unless there are any other plans you have…? No? Ok, can you switch me to your cancellation department, please?

Cell phone rep: Hold on just a minute, sir. I think I can actually work something out for you…

Bank fees

(I’ve been with the bank for many years, which you should always use to your advantage when calling to complain. Banks pay hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars in customer-acquisition costs and don’t want to lose you.)

You: Hi, I just saw this bank charge for overdrafting and I’d like to have it waived.

Bank rep: I see that fee…hmm…let me just see here. Unfortunately, sir, we’re not able to waive that fee. It was [some excuse about how it’s not waivable].

You: Well, I see the fee here and I’d really like to get it waived. What else can you do to help me? (Repeat your complaint and ask them how to constructively fix it.)

Bank rep: Hmm, one second, sir. I see that you’re a really good customer… I’m going to check with my supervisor. Can you hold for a second?

(You wait a few minutes at the most)

Bank rep: Sir, I was able to check with my supervisor and waive the fee. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Remember: You can always call back and get another representative if you mess up. You have as many opportunities to negotiate your bank fees as you have time in your day.

To do this week

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Spend 30 minutes — and ONLY 30 minutes — reading case studies, scripts, and examples on how to negotiate.
  2. Pick ONE of the following areas to negotiate:
    1. Personal finance (credit card companies, cell phone bills, etc)
    2. Craigslist (it doesn’t matter if you’re selling or buying)
    3. Farmers/flea Market (see what great deals you can put together)
    4. Your clients (raise your rates, or put together longer term contracts)
  3. Find a creative way to negotiate something within 3 DAYS.

Remember: Be respectful when you negotiate. Never take advantage of the other person and never get rude.

Once you do this bit of practice, you’ll be ready to negotiate anything.

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