Pushy sales tactics. One-size-fits-all solutions. Talking over you and underwhelming you.
We’ve all experienced a bad negotiation situation. You don’t feel heard, you question the motive of someone trying to “sell” you, and the whole process can make you uncomfortable. In real estate, if your clients feel any of these things, your business is going to suffer.
Many veteran agents joke that you have to be one part counselor to make it in this business, and it’s not too far from the truth. Emotional intelligence is critical to real estate negotiations, the effectiveness of your customer service, and your business as a whole. So how can you sharpen your emotional IQ and excel in negotiations?
No better place to start than the country’s top FBI negotiators. (Go big or go home!) Chris Voss, former negotiator for the FBI (the lead in international kidnapping cases) and founder and CEO of the Black Swan Group, shared his top strategies from the bureau in his book Never Split the Difference. The real estate process and sales scenarios don’t necessarily warrant the delicacy of a hostage situation, but you and your business can benefit from his tactics and experience.
Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in Sales
The first concept that Voss wants you to toss is the idea that denying or ignoring emotions will help you with any sort of negotiation. Good negotiators not only identify the emotions present on both sides of a situation, but they know exactly how to influence them.
“Emotions aren’t the obstacles to a successful negotiation; they are the means.”
In Real Estate, it’s easy to want to pitch your service offering at every opportunity, tell the sellers how much better you would be as their listing agent than the competition, wow your buyers with your knowledge about a property… but when it comes to working with your prospects, the first step to really delivering, is to talk less and listen more. This is the foundation of emotional intelligence. You can glean so much information (sometimes more than people would actually like you to know) by simply observing and listening.
In today’s digital world, listening doesn’t have to just mean in conversations. Opportunities about when you listen to what people are sharing on social media. Thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. you can follow along and listen as people tell you they are relocating, adding to the family, changing jobs.
The FBI’s Top 5 Negotiating Techniques for your Real Estate Business:
Think of this as active listing boiled down to a science. Mirroring communication is one of the fastest ways to build rapport, and it’s as simple as repeating the last few words someone said back to them. It’s acknowledges that you’re listening and it creates an environment where people feel safe and comfortable sharing.
It’s crucial to gather as much information from “the other side” (your client, a listing agent, a new lead) as possible, and when you mirror and repeat key words from their own sentence, by nature, responses will offer more information and points will be further clarified. Here’s an example:
Prospect: We don’t need to sell our home just curious to see the value now.
Agent: I understand you don’t need to sell. It’s a beautiful home in a great spot
Prospect: Yeah, we love it. It’s getting a little tight, but still works for us, and we just did some work on the kitchen.
Agent: Nice! Work on the kitchen?
Prospect: Just some updates- new appliances….
See? Just by reiterating keywords, you can start building a connection and find out some important information.
Pro tip: When negotiations are in full swing, a skill like this can also help slow down the conversation and buy you some time to think before you answer a question or reply.
Sales 101 is to work for the yes, right? Yes! But, Voss feels that being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive. It’s that pushy sales game we all fear and the person you’re working with will start to sense a trap. In the legal world, lawyers even call this “cornering.” That doesn’t sound like a pleasant situation. Working someone to say no, however, helps them feel a sense of control, not manipulation.
Ask no-oriented questions, like:
“Is now a bad time to talk about a new listing?”
“Would it be horrible if we tried looking at a new area?”
“Are you trying to sell your home really quickly?”
“Have you completely scratched this neighborhood off the list?”
“Are you scared of a fixer upper?”
While these won’t always generate the “no” you’re looking for, you’ll start noticing ways in certain situations to generate a no, and further open up the person on the other side by making them feel like they’re calling the shots.
This sounds like a complicated idea, but really it means showing your counterparts that you understand the way they’re feeling. This means labeling their concerns (and this also means paying attention!). Saying things like:
“It sounds like you’re concerned about selling your house by the end of the summer….”
“It seems like you’re afraid of going over budget…”
can help to disarm someone who is worried or anxious.
A great exercise to help with this technique is to brainstorm a list of the worst things the other party could say about you, their potential issues or disappointments, and try to address them before they can.
For example, if you think your buyer clients might be worried about a lack of scheduled showings in their price range, go ahead and address this before the issue can fester (or even arise!).
“I know it might feel like we’ve been in a bit of a drought, but I want to show you a market update for your favorite neighborhood to let you know what the inventory and pricing situation has been like.”
Try to pepper in some solutions too. Perhaps you know of a new house coming on the market, or something exciting is happening in another area they should consider.
The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is to give the other side the illusion of control. Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions, that begin with “How?” or “What?” so your opponent uses mental energy to figure out the answer.
Voss explains that these two interrogatives can be extremely powerful in negotiating, as they encourage the other side to keep talking, to clarify and to eventually reveal their true intentions and motives.
“You’d like to settle on these terms? What is it about this 30-day window that works for you?”
Likewise, with “how?” if someone demands $1 million in ransom, Voss’s response might be:
“I understand, but I need you to take a look at the whole context here. Tell me, how am I supposed to do that?”
This causes the other side to actually put themselves in your shoes. It forces them to be on your side for a moment, and you get the opportunity to hear them thinking out a plan. When you listen closely to that, you can almost certainly uncover hidden motivations.
We aren’t working for the yes, necessarily, but we do want to trigger “that’s right.” Why? This means you’ve convinced your counterpart that you understand them. You understand what they’re searching for in a home, or what they’re looking for when selling their house, or even that you understand their needs better than they might.
The moment you’ve convinced someone that you understand their dreams and feelings is the moment a negotiation breakthrough can happen. You can get to this response by summarizing and reaffirming how your counterpart feels and what they want (kind of a mirroring/proactive empathy hybrid move).
When you’ve done this correctly, it will trigger a “that’s right,” and that response will be based on feelings and passions that are driving the other side (that they may not even realize!).
This creates a little a-ha moment and simultaneously confirms that they share empathy with you.
Negotiating for Success
In real estate, you spend your days negotiating for something. In fact, our careers, finances, reputations, love lives and even the fate of our kids at some point hinge on our ability to negotiate. By using the strategies above, ones grounded in emotional intelligence, you’re guaranteed to have the competitive edge in any discussion, and build better relationships in your real estate business.
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