Negotiating: you just don't know unless you ask

Last weekend was the Printers Row Book Fair. Being relatively new to Chicago, this was the first year I was actually able to attend. All I can say is wow! If you like books, this is the place to be in June. There are readings by various authors and rows and rows of booksellers with some pretty amazing deals. While perusing the books, I came across a pretty comprehensive one on negotiation that I had been previously interested in purchasing. It was half off the original price but still a hefty amount of money.

I walked away.

Then, I kept thinking about it. It was a book on negotiation, after all. I reminded myself that it wouldn't hurt to ask the seller if he'd be willing to come down on the price. So I went back to the table, picked up the book and asked him. He inquired as to my interest in the book. When I told him I was a mediator he slashed the price in half again, offering it to me for 75% off the original price. Not only that, he then handed me another book for free, gave me his business card, and asked me if I'd provide him with feedback on both books.

I'm a fairly decent negotiator (mediation is much more my thing, however) but I'm not sure I would have asked for a price reduction if the book itself didn't so inspire me. The very title of the book had me thinking from the moment I first noticed it, glanced through it, and wanted it. As I stood by the seller's tent the first time, I wondered: am I showing too much enthusiasm for the book? How many others have shown an interest in it? What impact might it have on the seller that it's late in the day and that no one else is looking at his books right now?

After having walked a block up the street, I kept thinking. Do I really want to buy this book at it's current price? At what price would it be more desirable to me? What would be the harm in asking him to lower the cost? Would he see the irony in it given the book's title and therefore appreciate my negotiating or would that only make him more rigid?

I was very focused on the price tag as being the only area for negotiation but it turned out he had something that was more important to him than cost: who I was in relation to the book and my willingness and interest in providing him with a peer review. By returning to the table ready to "negotiate" I provided us both with the space to create a win/win in its purest form.

This experience made me wonder: do I really need to wait until I'm negotiating over a negotiation book to negotiate? Clearly that question's been answered.

By Laura L. Noah
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