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Negotiation Techniques

Learning how to negotiate can be the most lucrative skill you ever develop. Get it right and in just a few minutes you can save more money on your next car than most people earn in a week. Apply the same skills to buying a house and you can save what youíd earn in a year. 

Over the years Iíve trained thousands of salespeople from dozens of franchises now you can learn what the professionals are taught and turn it to your advantage.ÖÖ.

Whether you are buying a car privately or from a dealer, the same rules apply but when you are dealing with a private seller, they will be unable to offer part-exchange, attractive finance rates or warranties which garages use as negotiation tools. The only weapon at the private sellerís disposal is price, so take advantage.

For many people the prospect of selling their car from home can be quite daunting. Phone calls and visits from a series of strangers are most peopleís idea of hell. So their primary objective is to sell the car as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The psychology of negotiation is that one party will always command more power than the other. The party with the most power is the one that gets the best deal. Gaining this power can be simple if you know how to do it.

Inspecting the car in detail will provide you with information you can use to reduce its price. Point out to the seller any work that needs doing and try to agree the likely cost involved. Inspecting the car also establishes your credentials as an expert; the seller will begin to feel that they have to sell the qualities of the car to you.

When negotiating, the person who does most of the talking is also the weakest. So force the seller to talk more by asking open questions. Ask how long the car has been for sale. Why are they selling it? What are they replacing it with?

Finding out that, say, a new car is arriving on Monday gives you ammunition, knowing that the seller is desperate to make space on the driveway and put the money in the bank.

Refer back to the original advert: this can provide many valuable clues about the sellerís state of mind. An advert that reads £15,5000 ono (or nearest offer) shows the seller is expecting to give a discount. Iíd make an opening offer of less than £15,000.

But remember, before you make any kind of offer take some time to summarise the details of the car and remind the seller of your position. It builds the sellerís anticipation of the offer and reminds them that you are in charge.

How you pay for the car can also influence the seller. Waving a wad of cash can have them salivating, particularly if theyíve just put up with a string of time-wasters. 


You are now ready to make the offer. Be confident, be clear but donít be arrogant. Look the seller in the eye and make your offer.

Then shut up. And stay silent.

The desire to fill the silence can be unbearable. But he who speaks first is lost.

Remaining silent gives the seller just two options. They can either accept your offer, or make a counteroffer. In either case you have not changed your position. I once saw a salesman remain silent for 25 minutes while the customer decided on the colour of his new Mercedes-Benz S-class (and, yep, they did buy the car).

If the seller looks like accepting your offer, hold your nerve and offer your hand to confirm the deal. More often than not the outstretched arm, the wad of cash and the prospect of no more strangers visiting their house is enough to compensate for a price that is less than they had hoped for.

Make sure that any deal you agree is confirmed in writing, and donít part with large sums of money until you have hold of all the vehicleís paperwork.

And always remember, selling a car is more daunting than buying one, so keep your cool and apply as much pressure on the seller as is decent. The used car market has more cars than customers at the moment and there are some real bargains to be had if you hold your nerve.

Golden rules of negotiation

  • Inspect the car and note down any faults that need correcting ó use these as a bargaining tool to reduce the price
  • Check the price in the original advertisement to gauge how much scope there is for negotiation
  • Clarify the method of payment before making an offer ó cash tends to be best but donít carry huge amounts or you become a target for theft
  • Once youíve made the offer shut up!
  • If they look like accepting, offer them your hand, smile and nod at the same time.

Next article Reading & Writing car advertisements.