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Growth Strategies

The American Pickers Guide to Negotiating

Guest Writer
Owner of Make a Living Writing
min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The American Pickers Guide to Negotiating

Do you hate to negotiate? Feel too shy or intimidated to ask for more, or to pay less? If so, you might want to tune in to History Channel's hit show American Pickers. This show is like a college course in how to negotiate a great deal.

On the show, Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe of two-location antique shop Antique Archaeology wander U.S. back roads, finding old-timers with barns stuffed full of decades-old trash...and some treasures.

They're a couple of laid-back guys who seem to just be out on a lark, having a great time yard-sale shopping. Until it comes time to cut a deal, that is. Then they bid low, and they usually don't buy unless they can get something for about half what it's worth at retail.

How do they pull it off? Here are some negotiation tips drawn from their show:

  • Build a relationship. The pair begin by chatting up the owner and getting to know their story. Why did they collect this stuff? What sort of life have they lived? Taking this time establishes a friendly tone and shows they appreciate and respect the seller's situation.
  • Understand the motivation. Next, the Pickers find out why the seller is selling his or her prized belongings at this time. Knowing where the seller is coming from puts Fritz and Wolfe in position to rebuff protests about their offer with reminders about why they want to sell, as in, "You know you've got to rid of this. You're moving."
  • Smile a lot. When Wolfe counteroffers with a lower price, he always smiles a big smile. You can tell he finds the haggling fun, and he likes the people he buys from. He also usually gets his way. It's harder to say "no" to people who clearly like and respect you.
  • Remember the item's value. Wolfe and Fritz seem to have an antiques guide in their heads. They have a sharp sense of what items will sell for, and they stick to their markup formula. The owner may be in love with the object and think it's priceless, but if that ceramic Coke sign from the 1940s will only bring $150 after they clean it up, Wolfe's not paying much over $75.
  • Know when to walk away. When an owner wants a price that's not realistic, Wolfe and Fritz turn down the deal. "I can't do it," they say. They're not going to imperil their business by paying too much.

Most often, the pair are soon tooling down the road again with their van loaded down with choice new acquisitions. At the end of each show, they add up what they paid and what they expect to get reselling the items, and it's always a nice profit.

If you can learn to enjoy negotiating, like the Pickers do, I think you end up getting more of what you want.

What are your negotiating tips? Leave a comment and add to our list.


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