Friday, January 3, 2014

Lessons Learned from Negotiating to buy a new car

     This week I negotiated to buy a new car.  After over thirty years of marriage, this was the first time I did all of the negotiation and took title on my own.  I was struck by how many techniques the salesmen used to close which are also employed by the astute mediator.  Here's how it went down. 
     First, the salesman offered to let me take the car out for a drive.  He had some confidence that this car would "sell itself".  This was a little rapport building.  Then, he searched his computer for a car that met our wishes in terms of color and features.  This was the information gathering stage.  While he did that, he offered us expressos, pastries and even sandwiches.  He kept us there and kept us happy. (We were at the dealership for over two hours on Monday and about three hours on Tuesday.)
     Next, he offered to take my old car in trade at a certain (low) rate, even though it was in the shop for repair with an unknown problem.  We developed a mutual, collaborative process at this point to figure out how I could get rid of my old car and swap for a new car effortlessly and at the least expense.  There was a nice rapport going and even a bit of distributive bargaining on the terms of the purchase and sale.  This was about 4:00 PM, and as is typical in the negotiations of lawsuits as well, things got a little challenging and I needed a break to discuss the pros and cons with my husband.  We left and promised to be back in touch later in the day.
   Then we hit a snag.  The next morning, my husband took my car over to CarMax and sold it at a 20% higher rate than the salesman was offering. 
     Sometimes a particular new development arises in a negotiation which changes the terms entirely.  In those instances, though the negotiating parties may want to follow their instincts and forge ahead, it is better in fact to take a step backward and re-assess.  I had superior bargaining power at that point because I wasn't asking the dealer to take my old car (with 71,000 miles and out of warranty) in trade.  I was able to negotiate a better rate and higher mileage on the lease.
     Now it was New Year's eve and insurance offices and finance offices were closing every hour all over the Country.  My car had been sold and I wasn't sure we could get the deal done on the new one before the New Year's holiday.  I knew, however, that the salesmen wanted to make it happen to boost their 2013 sales.  Another advantage! 
     We got several levels of Managers involved in order to close the deal by 4:00 PM on New Year's eve, overriding their initial offer on higher financing costs.  Clearly, the collaborative process and information exchange which began the transaction served us well as the final details were completed.  And my negotiating skills were completely transferable.  Triumph in four wheels!