I have just bought a new car.  50,000 miles sooner than I expected to, but that’s another story.

As we know, car dealerships are a wonderful place for Sleazy guy with sunglassesexercising your Negotiation muscles.  I tell people this all the time, and we practice car dealer role plays on my negotiation courses.  They know all the tricks in the book, and you never need to speak to these people again, so you can play all their games with impunity.

I need to clear the air.  Ahem.

I messed up. Blew it.  An exercise in how NOT to negotiate, in fact.

I’m fine, didn’t sell a kidney or my wife to get the car, and am looking forward to taking delivery on Friday.  But I blew it nonetheless, and am now going to tell you how so you can avoid this happening to you.

My self-critique boils down to 5 giant gaffes. Here goes:

1.  I took the dog with me.  The fact that I knew Ross was in the back of the car, possibly needing a wee, put me under time pressure and made me stressed.  When we went out to look at the 2 possible cars, he set the car alarm off several times.  This stressed me even more, and the dealer knew it.  He was very nice, but he know I didn’t have the luxury of playing the hard to get game.

Lesson:  always go unaccompanied to these negotiations, and allow yourself all day to do the deal if it is important enough to you.

2.  I went for a test drive that morning.  As I was sitting opposite the salesguy, in my mind I could still feel the warmth of that heated leather seat, and the effortless way it carved through the puddles (mini lakes) and mud in our lane, like some battleship carving its way across the Atlantic.  I wanted that experience again, and it was still fresh in my memory.

Lesson:  do the fun bit separately.  Sleep on it.  Go into the negotiation ice cool and logical, where the facts can be analysed and you can think straight.

3.  I messed up my data gathering.  Even though I started my research online 2 weeks ago, somehow I never found a way of comparing like with like.  Even when I was comparing the same model, there were variants on age, mileage, specification, trim, which to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to work out.  So when I told him that another dealer had given me £1,000 off the screen price at the first time of asking, he went straight to their website, found a comparable vehicle with the one I wanted, and proved to me that the other dealer’s prices were typically £1,000 overstated.  Somehow this point had eluded me.

Lesson: do your research properly, and when you do, make sure you anticipate the comparisons your negotiator will make.

4.  I bought it on the first Saturday of the New Year.  “He” had already sold 2 cars that morning (see point 5), and by the time he had sold to me there was a queue of people wanting to talk.  People had been sitting at home over Christmas and now fancied a day out on a wet Saturday doing something exciting.  I should have waited until mid February.

Lesson: have a strategy for when to make your purchase, and if possible do so when you are of maximum importance to your opposite number.

5.  I allowed myself to get both fed up and panicked.  I wanted it all to end, as it had started before Christmas, AND the car we wanted had been sold that morning, so I allowed my wife to encourage me to get over there to see what else they had, because clearly stocks were running out fast.  When we saw a car with the exact spec we wanted, just a different colour, I saw light at the end of the tunnel and couldn’t wait to do the deal and get it all over with.

Lesson:  recognise that if you are tired or are panicking, the chances are you will do a deal which is not the best available.

Don’t get me wrong, I did get movement out of “him”, and in fact managed a bit of creativity in getting him to fit  a tow bar worth twice as much to me as the paltry discount he was offering.  So walked away with a bit of dignity at least.

All of the above are basic errors, and I deserve to be shot.  Just because you train it, doesn’t always mean you can do it.  As I often say, negotiation is a muscle, and you have to keep working out with it.  In this case my muscle, along with much of the rest of my other muscles, appears to have gone flabby over the Christmas break.

I never did tell you about why I was having to buy a new car, did I?  It was because my BMW decided to self combust on a dark night on a busy dual carriageway:  a near death experience which I might bore you with at some point.  I am now a BMW enemy for life.

Happy New Year!  I hope 2015 brings you the outcomes you deserve.  In my case, the only way is up!