Auditing and the art of negotiation

Every number you see on the financial statements was negotiated.

This is what my audit professor said to our class in fourth year audit.

Last week, I put my handy auditor tool box to work and negotiated myself a pretty decent internet package from my service provider.  Although trying to get cheap internet isn’t really the same as auditing financial statements and hardly a feat of strong negotiation skills, I found the soft skills I’ve learned while in public accounting really helped me become a better communicator…and to get what I wanted out of the conversation.

1. Know your stuff.

As an auditor, we always try to get as much information as we can and try to develop a good understanding of the situation at hand in order to raise the right issues and ask the right questions.  So I did my research of competitors’ prices and products, looked up my current bill and usage, and prepared myself for the call.

2. Be a clear communicator.

A lot of times, clients don’t speak audit.  You have to lay it all out for them in a way they understand before they’re able to provide you with the appropriate response.  The same goes for negotiations.  Be clear and be concise when making your points.  Have the listener follow you in your thought process.  I told the internet provider what my current situation was, what I was seeing in the market, and what I wanted from the call.

3. Question their answers.

The guy from my service provider told me the new internet package would cost double my current rate and despite being a long-time and multiple-service customer, he quoted me a higher rate than what was advertised online.  I called him out on it.  That’s what I call professional scepticism!  It wouldn’t make sense to double my cost when historically, I wouldn’t even come close to doubling my usage, and why would I accept a price higher than the quoted price online?  He told me that I would get additional benefits for being a long-term customer, that’s why the price is so high.  So I asked him what the benefits are and he had no answer.  Instead, he transferred me to another department.  I don’t think there were any real benefits.

4. Know your purpose, stick to it.

Sometimes when you talk to clients, there’s so much going on that they’ll go off on a tangent, or bring up unrelated items.  It’s human nature to be social.  Small talk can lead into long talks.  As nice as it would be to chit chat with my clients all day, we both have work to get back to.  I’ve learned to stay focused and bring conversations back to its main purpose.  The internet provider kept trying to talk to me about a new modem or changing my cable services but all I wanted was to increase my internet bandwidth allowance.  So I kept bringing him back to the topic, no matter how hard he tried to sell me on all the other services.

Conclusion: I’m an audit nerd who has a pretty good internet deal.



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