If you own a retail business or restaurant, the price is the price. Customers rarely try to negotiate.

But if you own a service business or function largely B2B, negotiation is a way of life. For most potential customers, the list price serves as a starting point or negotiation anchor. Many won't make a deal unless they feel like they're getting a deal.

Which means almost always means taking something off your price.

But simply agreeing to provide a discount implies your initial price was too high. That's why smart negotiators always make sure they receive something in return. An extended delivery schedule. Or a larger volume order.

Asking for those things in return makes sense... but if cash flow is a problem, make improving cash flow the starting point for negotiations.

If your terms are usually net-60, provide a discount (that you would have provided anyway) in return for net-30. Or ask for a larger deposit. Or more frequent progress payments.

The same approach can sometimes even work for retailers. A friend owns a chain of gas station/convenience stores and offers a 3 percent discount for customers who pay cash. That way he cuts the normal time between credit/debit card purchase and funds availability down from two to three days to one.

Plus, since those customers must come inside to pay, the odds are much greater they will purchase items from the store -- and, naturally, pay cash for those items. (Oddly enough, some customers use his ATM machines to get cash, so he takes a slice of that transaction, too.)

Try it:

When existing customers wants a discount, ask for better (enhanced cash flow) payment terms in return.

When new customers ask for a quote, make sure your standard payment terms are short: Net-10, or net-20 at most. And make the deposit or initial payment amount as high as the market can bear.

Some customers will want to negotiate those terms, and that's okay: You may be able to hang on to more of your initial price by extending the term. While that won't help your cash flow, it will improve your margins.

That, ultimately, is the point of any negotiation. Negotiating isn't a game to be won or lost. The best agreements leave both sides feeling they received something of value.

Sometimes, for you, that might be better margins. Or extended delivery terms.

Or, when cash flow is something you not only value but need, you might find that many customers will be happy to "help," as long as they get something in return.