My Negotiation Failed

Ever have one of those days where a seemingly mundane task turns into an unexpected life lesson? Well, I recently had a day like that with my 1969 Ford Econoline Van, a stubborn battery and an encounter that taught me more about negotiation than a boardroom ever could. 🚐

Negotiation: A Van, A Plan, A Battery Flat

It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday in Darling Point and I had a meeting about a large development site in Parramatta. As you know, I love driving my cars, so for this day, I decided I would take the van and head out a little early, or so I thought until my trusty van decided otherwise. The culprit? A flat battery.

We’ve all been there. For me, it happens pretty often. With over a dozen cars, some of them don’t get driven as much as they should. It doesn’t worry me though, because it’s a simple fix, right?

I thought so too, until the day took a surprising turn.

Image of Chris' 1969 Ford Econoline Van
My 1969 Ford Econoline Van
Negotiation: Roadside Assistance or Roadside Hustle?

I grabbed the phone and called up roadside assistance, confident this was a just a required jump start and then off I would go.

The technician rolled up fairly promptly. A young man with a week’s worth of stubble and an untucked shirt casually exited his vehicle with the confidence of a world class athlete, before tidying himself up and then sauntered over.

A few pleasantries were exchanged and he took a close look at the van in admiration before popping the bonnet and attaching his device to check battery charge. His verdict? Dead battery. No shocker there.

But his solution? “Well, I could jump start you, but there’s zero charge in the battery, so it needs to be replaced.”

No problems. I simply responded, “that’s fine, just a standard battery will do”, as I knew they cost around $250.

He sucked his teeth and said… “Premium batteries only, mate. That’ll be $400.”

Negotiation: The Art of the Upsell

I couldn’t help but balk at the price, a cool $150 above the retail rate. So being a master negotiator myself, I said, “$400 is a little steep when I can get the same battery for around $250. What’s the best price you can do?” I knew exactly how to get the best price possible, right?

His response was a masterclass in salesmanship:

  • No budging (he told me all his batteries were a fixed price from head office)
  • No attachment (it appeared as though he couldn’t care less whether I purchased the battery or not)
  • Offered an alternate solution: “You can always save yourself a few dollars. I’ll jump start you, then you go to the auto store and see if they have the right battery. Then you just need the right tools to swap it out and you’ll be on your way in after that. If you don’t need to be anywhere in a hurry, you can always save a few dollars by doing that.”
Negotiation: The Turn of the Tide

This young unshaven man was schooling me in negotiation. How was I to argue this point? He gave me two options. I had to choose one.

Of course I chose the instant solution. My time is worth more than that. Besides, I needed to be in Parramatta now within the hour. The negotiation was done.

Clearly, he’d danced this dance thousands of times. Some times he sold, some times he didn’t and it 100% looked like he didn’t care.

I realised then, he wasn’t just selling batteries; he was selling convenience, leveraging my own time against me.

Negotiation: Rubbing Salt Into the Wound

At this point, he strolled back to his van, grabbed out the new battery and as he walked back, he looked me in the eye with a look of understanding of my predicament and said, “I’ll do this one for $380 just for you”.

I started laughing inside.

The negotiation was done. Over. I’d agreed to $400 with zero discount as he told me it wasn’t possible.

Then afterwards, he gave me $20 off anyway.

I couldn’t help feel like he was offering a masterclass in negotiation at this point. Was this to run salt into the wound, or to make me feel like I’d somehow won this negotiation? For most people, they’d be telling their friends how they’d negotiated 5% off.

Headline Image Title: A Lesson Learned

After I begrudgingly agreed and he’d changed the battery within 2 minutes, a lightbulb went off. This wasn’t just about car batteries; it was a mirror reflecting every property negotiation I’ve ever been in. It dawned on me that, much like my van’s battery, we often don’t know the true value of what we’re negotiating for, be it a battery or a beachfront property.

And often the negotiation isn’t just about the price of the “thing”, it’s about:

  • The “thing”
  • The convenience
  • The time
  • The lifestyle

The list goes on.

This tech knew his product inside out, understood the value of my time and used that to steer the negotiation (whether deliberate or not). It was a stark reminder that in property, like in life, knowing your worth and the worth of what you’re bargaining for is paramount.

Otherwise, you simply end up spending exactly the maximum you were willing to pay in the first place. Sound familiar?

Just because you are an expert in negotiating one thing, doesn’t make you an expert negotiator in something else (just ask the worlds best hostage negotiators whether they win every negotiation with their kids)!

Headline Image Title: Bringing It Home

This experience, humorous in hindsight, underscores a truth we often overlook: negotiation is a skill, refined by daily practice and understanding.

Whether it’s a $400 battery or a $4 million home, the principles don’t change.

In property, where the stakes are immeasurably higher (and so are the emotions), the lesson is clear. Know your market, understand the value of what you’re negotiating, and remember, sometimes, the best negotiation is the one where you recognise the value in walking away.

If this was a property, I would have already done an independent valuation, known exactly the state of the market and understood the value of a deal from both sides of the negotiation. Plus, I would have been ready to walk away if we were unable to come to an agreement.

Negotiation isn’t an argument. It’s about both sides believing they got a trade of a fair value.

I may not be able to help you negotiate a car battery, though if you are eyeing off a new property, our team negotiates them every single day.

It’s about more than just getting a good deal; it’s about understanding the value of what’s on the table.

Click here to book a time with me personally to chat.

Until then, may your negotiations be fruitful and your batteries fully charged.

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