Learn to Ask Questions & Make Money

If you’re running short of money, maybe it’s because you’re not asking enough questions–especially when it comes to asking for discounts when you buy something. It’s amazing what results you can get sometimes by simply asking a question. Let me explain what I mean by sharing several actual case histories with you.

Yesterday, while waiting for some friends, we were browsing through a gift shop. I had been looking for an anniversary gift for my daughter, Janet, and son-in-law, Tommy.

Joanne spotted the ideal item: a bird cage in the form of a hot air balloon, which was hanging from the ceiling of the gift shop. Janet and Tommy own a restaurant-tavern by the name of Knickerbockers, and their logo is a hot air balloon. This would be the perfect gift.

When I asked what the price was, the clerk said, “$107.” I used the “shock” technique and asked, “How much?” She repeated the price, and I said, “Wow, that’s a lot of money. You can do better than that, can’t you?” She hesitated a moment and said,” Yes, I can give you a 15% discount.

I mumbled, “15%? How much would that be? What would that make the price?” She looked at the ceiling for several seconds and said, “I’ll let you have it for $89. That’s better than 15%.” I hesitated, mumbled the price several times and said, “Hmmm, that’s still a lot of money, but I’ll take it.”

Cash deserves a discount

Then I asked her if she accepted Master Card and Visa. She said she did. As I was just about to hand the card to her, I asked, “How much discount will you give me if I pay cash?” She looked at the ceiling again and said, “If you pay cash, I’ll let you have it for an even $80.”

Now it was my turn to be shocked, I hadn’t expected a $9 discount just for paying cash. I usually don’t get more than three to five percent when I ask that question. (She didn’t know it, but I would have bought the thing if she had given me no discount.)

It took me about two minutes of asking questions and making comments, to save or “make” $27. For a minimum wage worker, that amounts to several hours’ work. Talk about yield. Plug those numbers in your calculator.

It never hurts to ask

Now for another actual case. Last week I was in the book store buying some books for gifts. I had five books (four were Rich Dad, Poor Dad). When I placed them on the counter and the clerk was about ready to start ringing the prices up, I said, “Now you do give a discount for this many books, don’t you?” He just smiled and said, “No, I’m sorry we don’t.”

I frowned, looked very disappointed and said, “No discount?” He finished adding the prices and when he quoted me the total amount due, he said, “Well, I went ahead and gave you a 10% discount.” The discount amounted to $15.46. Just one simply question resulted in $15.46 staying in my pocket instead of winding up in the cash drawer. And it was fun, too.

Another time when I was negotiating to buy a mobile home and asked the question, “If I can get you the money today, what is the absolute best cash price you will sell for?’ The seller dropped the price $2,000. One question equals $2,000. How’s that for efficient use of your time?

Don’t be the first one to mention a number

Here’s another actual example of how asking questions gets good results. I was negotiating to sell a mobile home, and the buyer asked, “How much is the down payment?”

I gave him my standard answer, “We don’t have a certain amount. It’s negotiable. If it’s reasonable, I’ll try to work with you. How much of a down payment can you make?” His answer was “$8,500.” I would have been happy with $1,000. (You need to learn how to hold a good poker face when something like that happens.)

Another time when I asked a buyer how much they could pay each month, the answer was “$400.” I would have been happy with $200. Suppose I had already stated that I wanted $200. What are the chances the buyers would have said, “No, we want to pay $400.”

Several years ago we were shopping for three oil paintings for Christmas presents. After asking questions and negotiating the best price I could on one picture, I then asked the question, “Suppose we bought two pictures, how much discount will you give us?”

When a price for two pictures was firmed up, (you guessed it) I asked, “If we could afford to buy three pictures, what kind of a special price could you give us?”

When the price for three pictures was established, I then used the “how much discount will you give if I pay cash instead of putting it on a charge card?” We walked out with three pictures for the price of two. It was much easier to ask some questions and get a big discount, than to pay full price.

But how many people never learn to ask questions and don’t even know, or realize, they can buy for much less by simply asking questions.

Practice negotiating

If you haven’t been asking for discounts or trying to negotiate better prices on items you buy, let me suggest you start doing it with your next purchase. And don’t be shy about asking for discounts. The worst that can happen is that you don’t get a discount. But many times you will.

Let me recommend you buy some good negotiating material and study, learn, and start using that knowledge. There are many good books, tapes, and courses on negotiating. One author in particular that I recommend is Roger Dawson. He’s one of the most skilled negotiators in the country and puts out great material.

So learn to ask lots of questions, especially when it involves keeping your money in your pocket. And always ask for a discount whenever you buy anything. You will normally need to negotiate with the person who has the authority to make a decision and grant the discount. If the employee you’re negotiating with has no such authority, ask for the manager or person in charge.

Give it a try, and I’ll bet you’ll get some pleasant surprises. It doesn’t always work, but then, what does? Happy negotiating.

By CREOnline Contributor

A content contributor to the original CREOnline.com.