How 'Nice-Lady' Negotiating Saved Me $4,300 in a Year

By: Jill Beirne Davi

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After a recent hospital stay, I opened one of dozens of health care-related bills and found one for $21.47 for the TV and phone in my hospital room. I never used the phone. I never used the TV. Yet here was this bill — one that my health insurance would not be covering — telling me I owed money for a service I never used.

Now most people would get on the phone right away to dispute this error, but I hesitated. As an agreeable people-pleaser, calling to disagree felt scary. Deep down, I was terrified of the word ‘no’ — both hearing and saying it.

I’d think: It’s hopeless anyway; they’re just going to tell me I have to pay. And then I’d rationalize not calling by telling myself it was “only $20,” or whatever the bill amount was. If the bill in question was higher, sometimes I just wouldn’t even pay it.

Every once in a while, I’d get up the confidence to call. But at the first sign of disagreement, I’d panic and hang up — and then send in the payment.

As my financial life became more complex with a mortgage and two kids, I realized my shut-up-and-pay (or not pay) strategy couldn’t continue. Those smaller charges were adding up. And the larger ones I ignored were hurting my credit when those bills went to collection. I knew I needed to find another way.

Inspiration came in the form of my two-year-old daughter negotiating over school clothes. I realized she was a pro in this delicate art form: pleasant, curious and dogged in the pursuit of her own happiness, despite hearing several "no’s" from her mama. I could learn a thing or two.

And then it hit me: Instead of perceiving the person on the other end of the phone as an enemy, I would approach them as a collaborator — someone who could answer my questions and help me get what I wanted.

So, back to the hospital bill.

Calling with no plan was the old Jill. This time, I took 10 minutes and did my research. I called the insurance company first. Then I wrote down exactly what I wanted the outcome to be. Finally, I wrote down in big letters, “What if they say no?” and scribbled some thoughts about what I’d say next.

Prepared, I picked up the phone and pleasantly introduced myself. The man on the other end sounded like he’d had a long day. I detected annoyance. Bad start, but I forged ahead. After calmly explaining my situation, I asked how I should proceed. He reminded me that my insurance didn’t cover this and explained it was a separate service.

I paused. This is normally when I’d agree and hang up. I looked at my notes and asked a question instead: “I don’t remember signing up for these services. Would you be able to send me a copy of the document I signed that said I authorized those charges?”

“Ma’am,” he replied,” you are automatically enrolled in the services and should have received a document in the hospital for you to sign if you wanted to opt out.”

Bingo! This new information gave me just the leverage I needed. I explained: “I never received paperwork to opt out. I was never given the opportunity to decline these services. What should I do next?”

He responded, in a huff, “Ma’am, did you use the TV or phone in your room or not?”

“I did not,” I calmly replied, ignoring his tone.

There was a long pause, during which I made sure to stay quiet. He came back and agreed to give me a one-time credit for the bill.

I thanked him, hung up and broke out in a happy dance. I couldn't believe it! The amount was irrelevant; this was a breakthrough moment. Since then, I’ve gone from timid bill accepter to expert nice-lady negotiator. In the past year alone I saved over $4,300 in fees, discounts, health insurance copays and incorrect charges by having the courage to get on the phone and negotiate. Want to do the same? Here are my tips for getting the outcome you want:

Have a written plan. If you usually get flustered on the phone, don’t wing it — be prepared. Before each call, write down the exact outcome you’re seeking and how you hope to get there, including possible roadblocks and how you can get around them. It’s important to have something (anything!) to say when your emotions get rattled.

Get your facts straight. Knowledge is power in this situation, so keep all documentation of bills sent to you, have specific dates ready and always read the fine print on any policies so you can speak intelligently and confidently on the phone.

Ask open-ended questions. Before a call, write down 10 questions you could ask the person on the phone. This can help move the conversation forward when you may otherwise feel stuck.

Be neutral and pleasant in your tone. If you’re angry or upset about a bill, give yourself some time to calm down before reaching for the phone. I used to think I had to turn into a jerk to get my way, but in my experience I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Being pleasant, making a connection or even cracking a joke can help grease the wheels between you and the rep.

Have a plan for a no. Instead of fearing an initial "no," learn to embrace it. Don’t be discouraged — just keep asking questions until you can find a creative way around it.

This article originally appeared on https://www.learnvest.com/2017/05/how-nice-lady-negotiating-saved-me-4300-in-a-year


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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit abundantfinances.com. 

I used to let people walk all over me at work — until I learned how I could use my niceness to my advantage

By: Jill Beirne Davi

'Niceness' can be a helpful tool in a negotiation.  Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License

'Niceness' can be a helpful tool in a negotiation. Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License

Nice people can find it challenging to successfully negotiate a business deal.

For 'nice' people who tend to let others take advantage of them, it is essential to prepare for negotiations.

Using 'nice' qualities can actually be helpful: By behaving pleasantly and positively, your opposition is more likely to soften and follow your lead.

For us sensitive, "too-nice" types, negotiation can be a nasty word.

At least for me, it was.

Sure I talked a good game, but when it really came down to negotiation on my own behalf for what I wanted, I possessed a terrible habit of rolling over and letting the other party win. My ears burned hot red at the hint of confrontation. Even though it was "just business," negotiation always felt personal. I didn't want to anger anyone and I believed pushing back meant I'd ruin the relationship.

But you can't go through life, letting people take advantage of you. Especially when you run your own business. As business owner and consultant, I knew I needed new tools to help me deal with the uncomfortable scenarios all business owners eventually face:

Situations like:

What to do when a client is late on payments?

What to do when a client wants to change the terms of the contract?

How to ask for better terms from vendors?

Things are going well in a conversation with a potential client — until you start talking about your fee. What do you next do to seal the deal when things are feeling tense? What to do when a client won't take the suggestions you know they need to be successful?

I've learned from running my own business that negotiation is an essential skill I needed in order to survive. So, I devoured everything I could on the subject (even the out-of-print, hard to find books) and started practicing on low-stakes events.

My first real win had nothing to do with business, but it was great practice. It came when it was time to order my daughter's birth certificate. I called the government office and they told me to send $25 in cash (!) with a pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelope. Once received, they'd send me a copy. I followed the directions to the letter.

3 weeks, no certificate.

So I called again. The woman told me they received my request and sent it out already. When I told her I hadn't received it, she said my only option was to re-send the money and try again. I hung up the phone and instantly realized: I could get angry, I could roll over and send the money, or I could negotiate. I decided to do some prep work, call her back and negotiate. In the end, she sent me a new certificate free of charge, (happily I might add).

After that small win, I was hooked and reached for higher stakes. I raised my consulting fees, negotiated with vendors (saving myself over $4300 in just three months), and started landing new clients reaching out to cold contacts using my new found negotiation skills.

Here's how I did it

This is the exact 5 step blueprint I use now before entering into any negotiation — without being aggressive or rude.

1.      You must realize you're in a negotiation. This is the hardest part, in my opinion. If you don't know you're negotiating, you will start to take things personally.

2.     Have a written plan before you begin the negotiation. Don't wing it! Be prepared. Before each interaction, write down the exact outcome you're seeking. If you're a sensitive or naturally agreeable person, it's important to have something (anything!) to say in response when your emotions get rattled.

3.     Ask open-ended questions. Some people, like me, were raised not to ask questions which makes this step seem impolite. However, questions are the only way to unlock the information that can help you get what you want. Before a negotiation, write ten questions you could ask the person on the phone. This will help move the conversation forward in case your emotions rattle you.

4.     Be neutral and pleasant in your tone. If you're angry or upset, give yourself some time to calm down before reaching for the phone. I used to think that if I was calling to negotiate I had to turn into a jerk to get my way. But in my experience, I've found the exact opposite to be true. Being pleasant, making a connection even cracking a joke or two can help grease the wheels between you and the person on the other end, helping you to get what you want.

5.     Have a plan for a no. In America, we're a nation of no-a-phobes. We hate the word and will do nearly anything to avoid it. But if you embrace it, and prepare for it in advance, you will be able to find a creative way around it.

Follow these five steps and you'll be able to negotiate better and still be "nice."

This article originally appeared on http://www.businessinsider.com/nice-people-tips-for-negotiation-2018-4


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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit abundantfinances.com.