I was reminded last week of how easy it is to let skills slip.  I tend to think of Negotiation Skills as one of my specialist fields.  I train the subject, make videos about it, coach, run simulations and read about it quite a bit.  All well and good.  Not quite the same as DOING it, though, is it?

The reminder came from our annual home and contents insurance renewal.  A distress purchase if ever there was one.  Last year, after 15 years of apathy and allowing my premium to creep up and up by not switching provider, I made the change, and knocked 25% off the cost as a reward for my efforts.  This year the new guys sent me a renewal quote, and wanted a 9% increase.  Hmmm.  Maybe 2% was OK, but not 9%.  As it happened I had 3 or 4 other quotes in the post that week, so I picked the cheapest and rang my current provider.  Here’s how the conversation went (by the way, the image below is for illustrative purposes only: I have not lost 2 stone and grown a moustache.)

“How can I help you today?”

“I have your renewal quote here for a 9% increase in my premium.  I’ve been quoted £140 less for the same cover by a competitor.  What can you do for me?”

(Pause at the other end of the line.)

“That’s fine, I have reduced your premium by £140.  Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

End of  “negotiation.”

A friend of mine told me afterwards that of course I should at that point have asked for more: don’t give up until they squeal.  I was so amazed at the time that I wasn’t thinking straight, and failed to pursue my advantage.  I’m currently seeking further quotes and plan to try them again in a few days’ time.

My point here is that I certainly recognise that it is easy to become lazy, and that the skills we learn in life aren’t all there for ever.  They have to be kept honed, used regularly, wheeled out and given an airing, otherwise they get rusty.

Another trainer colleague (a Negotiations Skills specialist as well) used to say he thought of Negotiating as being like a muscle: you have to keep it strong, and take regular exercise.  The trouble was he took this slightly to extremes, and used to negotiate EVERYTHING.  Going out to dinner, or even being with him on a flight, was exhausting, as he never gave up.  Admittedly we did walk away with pocketsful of miniatures,  chocolates, airline pens and the rest.

For some tips on negotiation, try my Blog on using the BANANA to get yourself a better deal.

Action

Think of a service you buy or plan to buy, and use it as an opportunity to practice those Negotiation Skills.  Do your research, get alternative suppliers lined up, get stuff in writing from them, and be prepared to put the phone down or walk away if your current supplier doesn’t want to play ball.    Do let me know how you get on!

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