Learning the art of negotiation can help you in career, finance and life. Negotiation skills can help you earn a better salary, land a promotion, earn a big project or reduce your bills. Even if you currently suck at negotiating, you can get better. You just need to learn the ropes and practice a bit.
Remember that you have nothing to lose by negotiating. If you fail, all they said was “No.” The learning process is really simple. You will do these three things to successfully negotiate bills.
Learn the simple negotiating process.
Build a thoughtful interpersonal interaction.
Develop your ability to determine better solutions.
The Ten Basic Keys to Negotiation
You might think that you must be born with negotiation talent. Not true. You can learn to negotiate bills like a pro.
There’s a simple methodology to follow that consists of step-by-step activities to negotiate bills. You simply complete these tasks in order and present your argument to the decision maker. Let’s take these things step-by-step, in order.
Conduct research. Read about the topic about which you need to negotiate. Study it carefully before you discuss it. For example, if you want a raise, research what people with your education and experience currently make as a median salary in your position and what the median salary in your state is for the position.
Consider all angles of the situation. You need to understand the other person’s point of view and consider their needs. For example, your younger child wants to play with their older brother, but their brother has a big test, the ACT, coming up and needs to study for it. You can negotiate a settlement that includes an hour of playtime after the older brother has completed their studies for the day after explaining to the younger brother that the test decides whether or not the older brother will get into college. Many times, one side or both sides do not really understand how important something is until a mediator explains it fully.
Define your goals concisely and clearly. Plan out your “walk-away” point in advance. That is the minimum outcome you will accept.
Determine the ideal discussion time. If you need to negotiate your curfew, you want to choose a time when your parents are not busy or too stressed. If your parents need coffee before they’re functional in the morning, then avoid having the conversation first thing in the morning over breakfast. Choose a time that is relaxed and unemotional, like dinner the day your mom has rocked a huge proposal.
Stay calm. Do not get emotional while presenting your argument or while the other person is stating their needs or response. Emotion clouds your thinking. Remember, it is all business, so behave like it is only business.
Truly listen to the other person. Listen more than you talk. Develop active listening skills.
Make your request. Ask nicely and directly for what you want. Explain your needs and your desired outcome. Do so calmly and non-confrontationally.
Do not finger-point or lay blame. Simply focus on the issue at hand.
Work with the other person to find a creative solution that is a win/win. That means neither party wins or loses, but that both parties win. The solution creates a positive outcome for both parties.
Regardless of the outcome today, remember that there is always tomorrow. If you cannot work out a solution today, set a future time to meet with one another to discuss the needs of both sides. Find a solution that meets both sides’ needs once emotions have settled or both parties have been able to conduct research into alternatives.
Work Your Way Up to the Big Stuff
Before you jump into huge negotiations, practice on the smaller items. Start by negotiating at which restaurant you and your spouse will dine or a daily study period for your children.
Negotiate the price of a blanket at the farmer’s market. Negotiate a better deal with your cable provider or cell phone company.
Try negotiating a bill with a creditor. This can result in saving you money and improve your credit score quickly.
How to Negotiate Bills: The Details
Nabbing a lower rate on your cable bill makes great practice for negotiating a better price for your next root canal or your kid’s braces. Even better, you can get your credit card company to offer you a better interest rate or refinance your mortgage.
The Time Commitment
It is not a quick process, but it also does not take eons. Expect a time commitment of about three hours per creditor. Negotiating can take repeated phone calls, letters or emails. You may have to support your request with other documentation.
Overall time spent per bill/creditor: one to three hours
Initial research: 30 minutes to one hour
Negotiation: 30 minutes to two hours
What kinds of bills can you negotiate?
Start with your recurring bills. Some bills prove simpler to easier to reduce than others. By tackling each of the options below, you can save up to $50 per month. The easier negotiations are within industries that consumers could switch to a competitor easily, such as:
cable, satellite or Web television service,
phone services – both cell and landlines,
credit card interest rates,
auto and home insurance,
business or home security services,
newspaper and magazine subscriptions,
fitness center memberships,
bundled service plans.
What you need to do.
You need to gather together a few important items before you phone any business. You need to know the bill provider, the monthly cost and you need to know what their competitors charge for the same service.
Research Each Account to Negotiate Bills
Also, organize the facts about your account. How long have you been their loyal customer? Note the time length you have paid your bills on time in months. Include in your notes the name and cost of each service you obtain from the provider.
In regards to your cell phone bills, see if you can reduce your plan size to save money. If your data usage already matches your data plan, check the fees the carrier tacks on to the plan each month. You may be able to negotiate a line access charge off your monthly charges or have it reduced.
Research what your carrier or company offers its new customers. There is no reason that the company cannot offer you the same price, package and terms it gives new customers.
Organize Your Data in a Spreadsheet
Enter your data into a spreadsheet, so you can see at a glance the information for all of your accounts. This makes it simple to reference while you are on the phone.
While you are on the phone, take notes. Either use pen and paper or take notes in your computer. Note down the person to whom you spoke, any identification number they provide you, the time and date of your call and what they said.
Set your frame of mind before calling to negotiate bills.
Make your calls when you are in a positive mood and relaxed. That will help you remain calm and focused while on the phone.
Start out and stay nice when you phone the customer service line. People treat customer service representatives rudely all day, so if you are the sunshine in their day, it can make a difference.
Explain your situation. State what you want. Be persistent and firm, but polite.
Be prepared to actually cancel your service. They need to believe you that you really will cancel your account and leave them for a competitor.
Ask open-ended questions that require them to study your account or think about their service options. An open-ended question keeps the conversation going. Ask the following:
“What can you do to decrease my monthly bill?”
“What can you do to get me a cheaper plan that provides the same minutes/TV channels/data?”
Let the Negotiations Begin
Phone your service provider. Be completely upfront about the fact that you are considering canceling your service. Ask the customer service representative to transfer you to customer retention or the cancellations department. These departments have the most leeway to cut a deal. You might open with the introduction:
“Hi, I’m thinking about canceling my service because I just can’t keep up with my monthly bill anymore. What can you do to help me out?”
This cues the representative to pitch a savings offer. They should offer a percentage off or a dollar amount off. They may offer up a reduced plan which is not your goal. If they do not offer something that works for you, offer up your customer history with the script:
“Well, I’ve been a customer for [X years] and I’ve never missed a payment. I really don’t want to cancel my service with you, but I’m going to have to unless I can get a better deal.”
They should make a secondary offer, but if they do not, offer up the competitor offers you researched or the introductory offer they are offering to new customers. Try saying the following for whichever option you choose.
“I’ve been looking at my other options and they are giving new customers [the deal you researched]. I also see that you are giving new customers [another deal you looked up]. What can you do for me that matches or beats that?”
The representative may offer you a deal on an ancillary service. A TV service might offer six months of free HBO or Showtime. Hopefully, they offer a lower cost service, too. Say yes if it works for you, otherwise, try the script:
“Thanks, but the problem isn’t that I don’t have HBO/Showtime. My problem is my monthly bill is too high. What can you do to lower my bill?”
They may offer you a combination offer that reduces your monthly cost and gets you the free ancillary service. Take it and pay less forever.
If they just do not offer something reasonable, request a one-time credit for your years as a loyal customer. You save money on that one month and you can leave for a new provider afterward.
Remember to follow through after the phone call.
Clarify the agreement terms. Make sure you do not lock yourself into a long-term contract. Review the changes proposed to each service and compare it to what you currently pay. You can avoid surprise charges and surcharges.
Once you sign of the dotted line, log into your account online and confirm the changes were made to your account. Refer to any offer or confirmation emails sent to you during or after the negotiation call. If they do not match, call back and speak to another service rep. You may have to repeat the negotiation process.
If there’s no deal.
It takes time to negotiate bills. If you do not succeed with the first customer service representative, call back on a different day to speak to someone else. Another alternative is to contact customer service via instant messaging or email.
If that fails, too, actually leave. You already did the competitor research, so choose one and start service with them.
Negotiating Credit Cards and Loans
You can save even more money by attacking your credit cards and loans in the same manner. You might not realize it, but you can negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit cards. You can also get your medical bills reduced. If you have fallen behind in payments to your credit cards or in repayment of a loan, you can negotiate a settlement price for the payoff.
Negotiating a Settlement or New Payment Terms
Sometimes you have to negotiate a reduced total bill or work out a payment plan to meet your needs. Be honest and forthright with the customer service representative. Tell the representative how much you can pay and how frequently you can pay it.
The representative will probably counter with a request for larger payments. Simply explain that you cannot afford more than what you are offering to pay. They will typically accept your reasonable offer. If they do not, counter with the fact that that really is all you can afford and if they won’t take the reduced payments, you have no alternative but to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Explain that you have more than one creditor and you really are trying to find a way to pay each of them.
You goal is to reduce the amount you owe each month and make progress on the total amount due and avoid it being sent to collections.
Avoid agreeing to anything that you cannot afford. If you get behind in your payments, you will destroy your credit.
When It Has Gone to Collections
When your accounts have been sent to collections, this can actually work in your favor. That is because since the account is in collections, the creditor really does not expect to get it paid off. That is the step they take before writing off the charge.
Call the collections agency. Explain your situation and let them know that you do want to pay your bill. Let them know that it is also important to you that you protect your credit score.
Ask them if you qualify for a settlement reduction. You could ask for a percentage of the total amount to be forgiven in exchange for a lump sum payment.
When you negotiate bills in this manner, the collection agency often will offer a reduction of 20 to 40 percent for a single payment that significantly reduces the debt. This settlement actually reduces the amount you owe to the creditor.
You may get a series of offers from the representative. Commonly, they may offer:
You can pay the full debt in 12 equal monthly payments.
You can pay 75 percent of the debt in six equal monthly payments.
You can pay one-half or one-third of the debt in one payment. The amount varies by company.
Sometimes, they will not offer to lower or reduce the debt. That is when you need to turn to a professional for help to negotiate bills. Many companies and non-profits offer debt settlement services.
Get Help From a Debt Settlement Service
Contact a debt settlement service to get help contacting creditor to negotiate bills. Organizations like Care One and SettleIt.com work on credit cards and loans. The Patient Advocate Foundation is a health care and medical billing advocate. Some of these services cost money.
Some work on a sliding-scale basis, while others charge a monthly fee at the end of the repayment term or assume a percentage of the monthly payment.
To use these organizations, you normally must consolidate your loans and credit accounts. This means you will pay a single payment each month that the agency will distribute to the creditors.
Consolidating bills also means you agree to close each account as it is repaid. This can temporarily hurt your credit since it will reduce your debt-to-loan ratio and your available credit.
The advantage though is that you will be able to more quickly pay off your accounts and you’ll save your credit score. You can avoid going to court by doing this. Typically, you can pay back your creditors using this method within one to five years. It depends on how much you can pay each month, the percentage of reduction you receive from each creditor and the total amount due after reductions.
Always Get It In Writing
Make sure that you get any discount or reduction documented in writing when you negotiate bills. You require a confirmation document later. This is on top of the notes you make during the phone call. You can also make your offer in writing by sending it in an email or letter. You can also send an email that summarizes the conversation you had with the customer service representative of your creditor or of the debt settlement company.
Tips on Reducing Medical Bills
When you have a massive medical bill come up, you can negotiate it lower. The simplest way to get a discount is to offer to pay the bill in cash. Doctors rarely get this. Most patients either use insurance or they put it on a credit card. Credit cards charge each vendor for accepting them. Each time someone pays with a credit card, the vendor gets charged a fee of about five percent of the total transaction. Since you are saving the doctor or hospital by paying in cash, they will pass along the savings.
If you are uninsured, you can negotiate for insurance rates. Do a bit of library research before trying to negotiate bills of this type. Grab a book called the Healthcare Bluebook. It lists the amount that insurance companies typically pay for each service. This is referred to as the fair market price. You check for this because doctors and hospitals usually charge uninsured patients higher rates. Once you know how much the insurance companies pay for the service, negotiate for the insurance company cost.
You’ll phone the billing department of the doctor’s office or hospital. If the customer service representative turns you down, ask to speak to the supervisor. Just keep moving up through the organizational chart until you find someone willing to negotiate the price down for you.
When You Need Emergency Cash
Sometimes negotiations fail. Sometimes you negotiate a great deal, but do not have all of the funds to cover it. Sometimes there is no time for negotiation – you owe the money and you have to pay it. This site is great when need help paying bills. They also help you find an online personal installment lender, available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Whether an appliance breaks or a check bounced or you’ve been afforded a rare opportunity, at times you simply need a sudden cash infusion because you could not negotiate bills. With some of these services from our sister brands, whenever your emergency rises, you can get help.
You can search personal installments loans and we help you find a potential lender to whom you may apply. These lending institutions typically make loans to people with similar credit situations as you.
We do not loan you the money. We are not a financial institution. We are a loan mall, similar to our other site, Loanry.com. We specialize in emergency cash loans though, while Loanry offers a multitude of loan types from mortgage loans online to auto loans. Use Loanry to go loan shopping for a diversity of needs. It offers much more than your local community and simplifies your process. Use Loanry if you have a little time before you need your loan.
You can learn the art of negotiation. Unlike painting like Monet, you do not need a natural talent for negotiation. It is easy to learn and you have a multitude of opportunities to practice it everyday to negotiate bills. You can start by negotiating with your children to get them to go to bed on time or eat their Brussel sprouts. Heck, at least to try one.
You can then use your powerful new negotiation skills to change your life. Negotiate a better salary for yourself. Negotiate a better job. Negotiate bills – one-time bills and lower monthly bills. Negotiate reduced credit card interest rates or total amounts due. Negotiate lower medical care costs.
Learning to negotiate properly can change your life for the better. You can improve your situation just by knowing how to present it to those in authority and to explain your side of a situation. Start putting it into practice today. Pick one item you want to negotiate and practice your negotiation skills. Start by practicing the sub-skills, such as active listening and argument construction. Hone your research skills. Practice remaining calm during negotiations. Remember that a debt collector or financial customer service representative is trained to hound you for full payment. Once you have nailed the sub-skills, you can move on to actually negotiating your bills. Do not forget to also use your newfound negotiation skills to obtain a promotion or a raise or both.