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The next time you negotiate with suppliers who insist they have firm-fixed-prices, remember the Power of Three.


1. Ask. You will never get a better price unless you ask for it. Most buyers don't ask because they don't like rejection, but rest assured if you don't ask, they won't offer. If you want to realize appreciable savings that could improve your company's bottom line, you must have the courage to ask. However, asking by itself is not sufficient. You must also know how and what to ask for.


2. How to ask. If you have seen competitive products at lower prices, present these facts to the seller (be specific with model, features and price).


Sellers often have month-end, quarterly, seasonal or year-end sales; inquire about upcoming sales prices, then ask them to honor that price now. If they insist they don't have the authority to drop the price, don't stop there. Ask them who does, then set up an appointment with that person.


If you continue to test them and they still hold firm, be prepared to walk out, telling them you will have to look elsewhere. However, if you do this, consider walking back in at a later date and starting all over again, either with the same salesperson or another one. Act as if you never heard the information the first rime and/or bring up another point you had neglected previously (see next section).


3. What to ask for. The best way to succeed is to look for a win-win agreement rather than a straight price negotiation. With this approach, the salesperson does not have to "give in." Here are some examples:


• Ask the seller if your order could be linked with another company's large volume buy for a better discount. If the quantities on that order can still be changed, it will cost the seller nothing to honor your request.
• Ask for extras (such as expedited delivery, optional features or colors) at no additional cost.
• Ask for volume pricing if you purchase several different pieces of equipment.
• Ask for favorable extended payment terms.
• Ask the seller to delay your delivery for several months until you are ready for the equipment.


As a negotiating example, suppose you were interested in purchasing a new computer for your business. You might offer to purchase a second system at a deep discount at the same time, or you might ask the salesperson to include delivery and setup.


Any of these tactics has the same effect as lowering the price of the computer, but they may provide an easier route to consummating an agreement with the seller.


Only when the act of negotiating becomes natural can you begin to use it as an effective tool to Rower costs within your business.

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