I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but one night we happened upon The History Channel’s Pawn Stars. The escapades of Chumlee, Old Man, Rick and Corey are hard to resist, even if their scenarios are heavily scripted. A few minutes into it and I was hooked.
Here’s the thing that drew me in: watching people negotiate. Now, I don’t know if the show’s producers coach the sellers. Based on watching a few episodes, I’d say that the people wanting to sell their merchandise are left to their own negotiating devices. Some do really well, others flounder.
The show provides a great primer on negotiating – not just for pawn shops, but for many business applications. Here are five things I’ve seen the sellers do that “kill” their chances of making a fair deal for themselves:
Lead with “I’m not a good negotiator”. One seller I watched actually said this. What, is the buyer supposed to take pity on the seller and then “go easy” on the negotiation? Not going to happen.
Offer a range of acceptable prices. When asked by the prospective buyer, “How much do you want for that?” many people offer a range: “I was thinking $500 – $600.” Guess which number the buyer always chooses? That’s right, the lower of the range.
Get offended if they ask for a second opinion. Many times, the pawn shop owner calls in an expert to help price or authenticate the item up for sale. It’s surprising to me how many people seem offended, as if their word isn’t good enough. They say “But you can trust me, I know this is a real [fill in name of item].”
Let the buyer name the price. When asked what price she wanted for her item, one seller said to the pawn shop owner, “You’re the expert, how about if you name a price?” So, he named a price and then the seller countered with a higher price. This backfired because the buyer said, “You just told me I’m the expert, and that’s the price I think is fair.”
Take it personally. At the end of the day, a negotiation is a business transaction. Sometimes the parties come to agreement; sometimes they part ways without a deal. It’s not a personal affront to anyone’s character if the terms weren’t acceptable to both parties.
I’ve probably made a few of these mistakes myself. Watching someone else mess up can be a great learning tool. So, even though it’s a silly TV show, I actually have learned a few things about negotiating and I’ll be mindful of these things the next time there is a buyer/seller scenario in my business life.
What about you? What negotiating “don’ts” would you offer up?
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