Quick – where do you get your used gear from?
A listing somewhere?
All good answers – but we’re going to touch on one site specifically: Craigslist.
The modern day newspaper classified ads, you can find just about anything from cars to tables to old NES consoles and more for dirt cheap prices.
Amidst the sea of gadgets and gizmos everyone’s got for sale on Craigslist, it’s also an overlooked area to find used gear whether basses, amps, guitars, keyboards, drums or pro audio equipment.
“But Mike, I get my stuff from Guitar Center’s used gear section.”
I’ll get to that in a second – trust me.
In this post we’re going to look at some tactics to prepare you for the encounter: the time when you’re face to face with a Craigslist person selling a piece of gear you want and you don’t believe the price listed is a fair price.
What I will try very hard to do in this post is strip away all the super business-y jargon and rhetoric around negotiation and instead provide you, the bass guitar playing, music loving reader, with a set of basic, practical and downright actionable tools and concepts to consider the next time you’re in the market for used gear from someone that isn’t a major box seller like eBay, Guitar Center or Sam Ash.
I could go on and on about different techniques and point to countless different articles all saying somethings similar and some things different when it comes to bartering and haggling, but for sake of time I’ll address 3 big points that I think are the most critical to negotiation and bartering with goods and money.
The Art of Negotiation
There are many definitions and understandings of what negotiation really is.
Many associate it with high-powered business settings and corporate offices but negotiation can be applied anywhere there are two or more competing interests at play.
The act of discussing an issue between two or more parties with competing interests with an aim of coming to an agreement
A very broad definition, but nowhere does it make mention of people in suits and ties and million dollar deals.
Negotiation is simply coming to an agreement. How you define an agreement is something that is up to you.
Again, some define it as getting the upper hand on the 2nd party, others see an agreement as both parties getting what they want and leaving on pleasant terms. Regardless of the definition of others, what constitutes an agreement is up to you to determine.
Negotiation also requires a handful of not-so-mysterious skills that you already likely use on a daily basis (or should, anyway) including:
- Critical listening – or honestly acknowledging the other party’s position in a sincere
- Openness and flexibility – or being able to yield to certain points and stand firm on others
- Courtesy – or not going in making demands but instead being respectful and considerate of the seller and their gear
The list goes on and on and many of them will fall into the 3 groups above: listening, flexibility and courtesy and if you can exercise these 3 tenants, even if you DON’T lower the price or work out a deal, you’ll at least be able to walk away feeling like you tried and gave it a good shot without any regrets.
Speaking of things that might spur regrets, just as there are good habits to keep in mind when negotiating price of gear, there are things you shouldn’t do and like above, many of these are common sense:
- Don’t demand – or don’t shut down the barter with outrageous proclamations like “I want this” or “I demand this”.
- Don’t curse or overtly disrespect the person you’re working with
- Avoid opening the discussion but then shifting the responsibility of decision making to the seller. This point is a little bit more subtle but the gist is to avoid phrases like, “Why don’t you throw out a number” or “What can you do” too early in discussions. By doing this too early and not establishing what you’re willing to pay relative to the standing offer, you’re losing bargaining ground to the seller that becomes very difficult to sincerely reclaim. You’re leaving the seller to pick the terms that you negotiate on rather than starting the deliberations with, “I can do X dollars instead” and letting the seller know where you are on the item.
Like I’ve mentioned before, the dos and don’ts of negotiation are rather straightforward but the art of negotiation itself comes from being able to apply these techniques in a useful, effective and properly timed way, something that can only come with time and acute personal and situational judgement. Your end goal should be working towards a win-win situation.
3 Ways to Approach Your Next Used Gear Purchase
1. Go In Knowing What You’d Like To Pay Instead
If you firmly believe that the price listed for a particular piece of gear on Craigslist is not fair or accurate and are about to challenge the price, you must be prepared to know what you’re going to spend instead.
Like I mentioned before in the above bullet, negotiation isn’t entirely something that entirely happens in real time. There is a fair amount of preparation and research that should take place on your part BEFORE you go in.
Because the preparation is you setting that line in the sand both for yourself and the seller for where you’re willing to walk out or willing to go to.
By not having this understanding of what you’re want to pay in mind ahead of time, you run the risk of not getting what you wanted in the first place and falling subject to the influence of the seller’s decisions in real time and losing face.
A little bit of preparation the night before you go out to pick up the piece of gear with regards to:
- Knowing how low you’re willing to go
- How high you’re willing to go
- How much you’re willing to concede and how much you want to gain
Will do you wonders come game time.
2. Prepare for Objections
The best offense is a good defense and in a situation where viewpoints are likely to clash, the best preparation you can have is to anticipate possible objections.
When engaging in any kind of situation where you’re not outright accepting the offer of a seller, the first thing you’re going to encounter is an objection, an objection as to why you’re not taking their offer and why you’re proposing your own.
Now, every situation is different and every objection will come about for different reasons, but taking some time to put yourself in the position of the seller and think what and why might he object to my counter offer will do wonders come time to actually start negotiating.
Again – why prepare?
Because the worst thing in the world is to come in guns blazing to talk money only to be shut down by a single no or question regarding that particular price.
Barter over. You look foolish.
Considering some of your seller’s objections ahead of time gives you more leverage in deliberation and already gives you some space to prepare some responses and angles to take if that particular objection were to take place.
3. Use Active Listening
Lifehacker published a great article that neatly summarizes the core points of what it means to critically listen. The main points of critical listening are:
Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.
The point of critical listening is first to show that you are actually engaged with the conversation but second (and no less important) to show that you are engaged with the other person’s viewpoint.
You’re taking time out to dissect their position and find the specific nooks and crannies where you can yourself find common ground, find places to debate and find places to disagree with rather than simply broadstroaking their entire position and giving it a concrete “I agree” or “I disagree”.
Paying attention to the small points in the second person’s position is what will really make debate and bartering much more exciting and nuanced leading to a better outcome for both parties.
“But I Said I Get My Used Gear From Guitar Center”
I said I would come back to this and I would.
I purposefully excluded Guitar Center from this post because Guitar Center sales representatives are pretty firm against bargaining or bartering for used gear in their stores.
As a large franchise chain, it makes sense. After all, there is a bottom line that needs to be attended to and jobs that need to be kept. Moreover, one can’t easily figure out what the profit margin is with a store like Guitar Center so strictly from a business standpoint, bartering lower than what they have listed might be cutting into a razor-thin profit margin. Hard to say for sure.
All that being said, however, a little known secret about Guitar Center is that they have Flash Deals, or deals that have very highly discounted items but for a very short period of time, often a day or two at most.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any other time and place to get $100 off of a drum set:
Even with all these tools, negotiation is something that can’t just magically be picked up overnight. There is a tremendous amount of situational judgement that needs to be applied and no two situations are identical when it comes to bartering for a better price from a seller and a buyer.
Will these techniques work? When done properly and combined with sound personal judgement and situational awareness, you should at least be able to open a discussion with the seller but at the end of the day, some people are more open to talking a different price so long as they don’t feel like you’re pulling a fast one over them and they’re getting ripped off – which is certainly the largest concern on the seller’s mind.
I can’t predict how things will or won’t turn out in any given situation, that’s why it is up to you the reader to use your best personal judgement for when, how and in what capacity negotiation needs or should take place and your end goal should be to satisfy BOTH yourself and the seller.
Additional Reading and Insights
If you thought this article was in any way interesting, you might also enjoy:
- Barking Up the Wrong Tree’s awesome article on negotiation
- Getting Past No by William Ury. Ury’s book is phenomenal for looking a the word no in many different ways and finding different ways to use other people’s apprehensions as outlets to a yes. A little bit more advanced and teetering into the business negotiation territory, but still an insightful read.
Stay tuned until next week!
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