By Gene Marks

Meet Josh, the best negotiator in the world. Josh is six.

Whenever he wants something, he asks for it. "I want juice". "I want that game." "I want to watch Rugrats." "I want ice cream." And if he doesn’t get what he asks for? Well, he just keeps asking. And asking. Sometimes this tactic has the opposite effect. My wife or I will reprimand him. But a lot of times we cave. And he gets what he wants. Just to keep the peace. He’s relentless. He’s diabolical. He’s a great negotiator.

I know a lot of Josh’s in my professional life too. Like Gary. Gary’s forty six. He runs a small manufacturing shop. We agreed to help him with his accounting system. There was a ton of work that needed to be done. We had to migrate data from his old system to the new. Bring forward opening balances. Setup accounts. Do a little customization. Train, train and train. I estimated a good one to two hundred hours of work at the least. Gary understood. He didn’t flinch.


But when I told him our hourly rate was $140.00 here’s what he said: "Can you reduce it to $135.00?" The guy was about to spend in the neighborhood of $20-30K on services and all he cared about was reducing my rate by a measly five bucks an hour! I remember being taken aback. "Uh, sure Gary." I said.

What was five bucks an hour anyway on a project this size, I thought. Well, to Gary, it could be up to another thousand bucks he would save. That may not seem like a lot considering the total numbers involved, but a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. Better it be in his pocket when the smoke clears than mine. He just asked and I gave it back to him. Josh would be proud. It costs nothing to ask. And oftentimes it results in saving something. Just ask my neighbor Naomi. She lives for this stuff.

Naomi was having an addition put onto her house. She had a few contractors in to look at the job and it wasn’t going to be cheap. Or fun. But hey, the pain of remodeling is just one of those hardships we sometimes choose to endure. Now, don’t feel too sorry for Naomi. She cut quite a few thousand dollars from the asking price. Did she drive a hard bargain? Ferociously negotiate? Call in the lawyers?

Nope. Like Gary the manufacturer, Naomi also asked. One contractor quoted her $30K to do the bathroom. Another quoted her $40K for the same room. She actually preferred the second contractor. All she did was show him the first quote and asked him what he could do to bring down the price. Everyone has his price. He wanted the work. In the end they met half way. He cut the price down to $35K. She saved five thousand bucks and all she had to do was ask.
Requesting a lower price during a purchase is one thing. Asking for a lower price when you’re already entitled to one is another thing altogether. A lot of us leave money on the table that we’re entitled to. How crazy is that?

For example, just by banking with your local bank you may already be entitled to discounts from retailers like Barnes & Noble, Dell and Office Depot. And speaking of those retailers, most of them have discount programs too which offer special incentives to buy their products. Are you asking? You do buy office supplies, right? Did you ask the retailer how to join their discount program? Are you asking your bank about the discount programs they offer?

If you’re like me, you scrutinize the dinner check fourteen times to make sure the waitress didn’t charge you for that second cup of coffee. You’re scouring the hotel bill on your family vacation for any incorrect amounts from the in room bar. You’re driving another six miles to save two cents on a gallon of gas. And yet you’re passing up on hundreds, even thousands of dollars of savings every year because you’re not asking for it. I’m guilty of this too. Let’s change together.

Let’s think of Josh. And of Gary. And Naomi. Let’s think of ourselves. It’s time to put our foot down and open our mouths. We shall ask for discounts. We shall demand what is entitled to us. There’s no shame in it. The worst that can happen is we’re told no. But I know we’ll find more times than not that just by asking we’ll get something in return. And ten times out of ten we’ll get a discount from a vendor’s program that’s already included us.

Gene Marks is the President of The Marks Group PC (, a Philadelphia-based reseller of financial, customer relationship and service management technologies like Quickbooks, GoldMine, Microsoft CRM and other popular software. Gene is also the author of the best selling Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (

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