How to Be a Better Negotiator | theSkimm
Better NegotiatortheSkimm

The Story

Never accept a first offer. (Unless it’s the big slice of cake.) Salaries, big purchases, monthly bills, and even debt payments are all open to negotiation.

I'm not really a haggler.

Feel you. But mastering the art of the deal can really pay off. Start with a vibe check to make sure the timing’s right. Asking for a raise a month after you get hired – or any other time it doesn’t feel right to play hardball – probably won’t get you what you want.

Noted. Then what?

Dive into some research. For a raise or new job, find the typical salary for your position and experience in your area. Sites like Glassdoor and PayScale can help.

If you're looking to lower your bills – cable, cell phone, Peloton subscription – see whether there are any deals or promo offers going on. And what competitors are charging.

So you're saying there's homework?

Little bit. Before negotiating a raise, prep a list of accomplishments. Especially ones that helped your company make money or hit a milestone. The more you can quantify, the better.

Tell service providers and lenders what you’ve done for them, too. Think: referred friends, always paid on time, etc. For example, reminding your bank that you’ve been a good customer for a long time could help you get things like discounts, waived fees or a lower interest rate.

And once it's go-time?

  • Make small talk. A little friendly rapport never hurt nobody. Be confident and direct with your request, but polite and relaxed in tone.
  • Michael Scott this thing. Remember to highlight the ways your ideal scenario benefits the other person (or people) to make it a win-win(-win).
  • Throw out a few options. Research shows you're more likely to get what you want if you're cool with a few equally desirable outcomes. If you can’t get a lower cable bill, would you be happy with a year of free HBO or an extra cable box? If you can’t get money off a car’s sticker price, could the dealership throw in free oil changes and an extended warranty? Get creative.

What if none of that works? 

Ask why not. The person you talked to didn’t have the authority to make a decision? Find out who calls the shots. Now’s not a good time? Reschedule for later.

If you still can't get a fair deal, it could be time for plan BATNA. That's an acronym for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – aka what you'll do if things don't go as planned. Like accepting a better offer from a competitor if you’ve got one.


Taking a seat at the negotiation table can be intimidating, but your wallet will appreciate it. So do the prep work, build your case, and keep your eyes on the prize. 

live smarter.

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter.

Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.