The “Good Guy Discount” – and What it Says About Negotiating

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

April 23, 2017

good guy discount - the good guys discount - this american lifeBack in January 2014, This American Life broadcast a segment in which one of the program’s reporters went to several stores, making purchases and asking for a so-called “good guy discount.”

The idea is to establish a fast rapport between yourself and the salesperson, based on the supposition that you’re both “good guys,” and those good guys do good guy things, like provide discounts to affable strangers.

Most attempts turned out unfavorably. There’s a decent chance that many of us – if we were to try the tactic – might have a similar fate. Then again, maybe not. After all, how can you know unless you try?

The problem is, our built-in fear of rejection could intervene and prevent us from ever doing so.

The same is true in sales negotiations when tension and pricing pressure often rise rapidly. In this context, fear of being rejected can turn costly if it forces you to set lower price targets to appease prospects.

The good news is that we don’t have to accept the fear of rejection as our lot in life. The article also profiles a New York Daily News reporter who grew up watching his mother and father successfully negotiate discounts, time and again. What he discovered by watching them was that whatever fears he had about rejection were basically unfounded, and far less dire than his instincts led him to believe.

Once a salesperson has the same epiphany, it can free you to employ some of these negotiation techniques to help you thrive as the tension rises:

  • Set high targets. Overcoming the fear of rejection helps you change your attitude about setting high targets and expanding your prospect’s “range of reason.” One way to set high targets is to anchor your solutions with specific, compelling insights or data that reinforce your value. Remember, you only get one chance to anchor a high target, so it’s best to drop a powerful anchor early when you have the most control over your buyer’s perception of value.
  • Share information skillfully. When your customer asks your price, your natural reaction may be to give them a ballpark figure. But this could backfire by shifting the conversation only to price, potentially setting you up for a bake-off with your competition that erodes your value (assuming you win the business at all). Instead of directly addressing your prospect’s price request, try refocusing the conversation on the process. Acknowledge the importance of price and then get their approval to delay the price question until later when you’ll have a better picture of the solution needed to solve their business problems.
  • Clarify your value. When you present prospects with a long list of reasons to buy from you, they don’t get more excited. This actually slows down the decision-making process, enhances buyer skepticism and feeds into their status quo bias. In settings where consumers know the message source has a persuasion motive, the optimal number of positive claims is three. In sales negotiations, try summarizing your value in your three most compelling claims or data points.