How to win a better deal on almost anything

Men shaking hands

If you want a better salary, cheaper auto insurance or a higher price on that stereo you're selling, your best bet is to ask.

Most people and institutions have at least some price flexibility.

If they want to do business with you (or if your employer wants to keep you motivated and productive), there's a decent chance they'll make you at least a slightly better offer.

Here are 10 smart moves you can follow on how to ask for a better deal.

Smart move 1. Know the market.

Look online and talk with other people to learn what a purchase ought to cost and what someone like you should expect to earn. Then consider what other offers you've received.

You might conclude that you're already getting a fair shake. If so, consider leaving well enough alone.

Smart move 2. Use logic.

Don't make the discussion personal. You're not trying to extract a better deal from this person. You know that a better deal is available, and you're giving this person an opportunity to provide it.

Say something like, "I see from my research that a fair market price for this job is $120,000 a year, plus benefits, for someone with my credentials and experience. It wouldn’t make sense for me to accept less than that."

It's difficult for someone to argue that, in fact, it would make sense for you to accept less than that.

Smart move 3. Use your manners.

Most people would rather give ground for a pleasant person than for an unpleasant one, even if the logical arguments are the same.

Smart move 4. Recruit the other person to your side.

When you say, "I know you'll give me the best deal you can," a surprisingly large number of people do exactly that.

Smart move 5. Don't gouge.

The week that your boss goes into the hospital is not a good time to tell him or her that you want a raise, right now, or you'll stop work on a critical company project. That's not legitimate bargaining. It's taking hostages.

The same can be said if you're buying or selling something. Don't make an insulting offer.

Smart move 6. Offer a high-quality good or service.

Sell a stereo that's in good condition or offer top-notch job performance. If you're buying, paying cash or offering immediate pickup can sway a seller in your favor.

Smart move 7. Say no in ways that are hard to dispute.

You don't need to give your reasons for turning down an offer, unless of course it's in your favor to reveal them. Smile and say, "I'm afraid that's not possible" or, "Thanks, but I'd rather not."

Is the other person going to say, "Oh, yes, it is possible" or, "I think you would rather"? Not likely.

Smart move 8. Offer choices that aren't choices.

"I think it would be fair for you to give me a 20% raise or another week of paid vacation."

Yes, the other person could remind you that giving you nothing at all is also a choice. More often than not, though, people stay within the bounds you've already drawn, even when they know that they have a universe of other options.

Smart move 9. Be willing to accept a better deal in a variety of ways.

Think up some alternatives before you start bargaining, and be open to other suggestions.

Maybe the seller won't budge on those earrings. Would she offer you a better price on both purchases if you also bought a necklace?

Or perhaps your boss says that she'd love to give you a raise, but the company doesn't have the money.

Could she give you more paid vacation time or the opportunity to work from home one or more days a week? Or could she give you unpaid time off and keep the job open until you come back?

A magazine client once asked me to commit in advance to writing a not-yet-determined list of articles. I wanted more pay before I'd commit to an unknown.

The magazine didn't have extra money in its freelance budget, but it did have restaurant gift cards, which it had accepted in lieu of payment from advertisers. My editor offered me gift cards instead of a raise, and I took my family out to eat every time I wrote an article for her.

That trade worked for me. What trades work for you?

Smart move 10. Take yes for an answer.

When you reach an agreement, express your appreciation and stop arguing. Do not do your version of the touchdown dance.

When you act as if you've won, the other person might feel that he or she has lost. Act as if you've both won, and the other person may very well follow your lead. That paves the way for successful future negotiations.