By Ross Wilson
“Negotiation, in the classic diplomatic sense, assumes parties more anxious to agree than to disagree.” – Dean Acheson
Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless offer presentation techniques. Many were unprofessional, boring, disorganized, frustrating, inefficient, dumb and alas, sometimes hostile. A distinct lack of formal training is clearly evident in what is arguably our most important direct income-generating activity. Every time you find yourself in front of a client, be they your own or a competitor’s, for durable success, you must make every presentation moment count. And no moments lead more directly to earning commission than during an offer negotiation.
Negotiation is truly an art form. In our industry, as in any other, such skills vary considerably from superb to abysmal. As clearly demonstrated by the industry’s mediocre average income, in my experience, many agents are not much more than couriers and order takers. I’ve met shoe salesman with presentation skills superior to those of many realty agents. It’s no small wonder that a minority monopolize the majority of the business.
When presenting an offer, be sensitive to the moods and needs of everyone around the table, including the other agent. See things not only from your own perspective, but also from theirs. Now and again, take the time to step into their shoes for a few moments. Being narcissistic, blatantly aggressive and unreasonably demanding usually fails to make the sale. Haggling happens and emotions flare, but you’ll fare better with a scalpel than with a machete; even better if the scalpel is wrapped in velvet. Maintain your calm, your centre and be grounded. Focus. Do not permit any negative energy from the other parties to affect your serenity. If you do, you’ll only be feeding theirs. Witness the events, but do not lose yourself in them. Be alert, aware and think before you speak. Make a respectful connection with the parties and your dance is more likely to conclude smoothly and successfully.
Nowadays, it’s becoming common practice for listing agents to refuse the buyer’s rep the opportunity to personally participate in the presentation. They insist that offers be faxed or emailed. In my opinion, that’s a mistake – a big one.
These listers may have duped themselves into believing they’re protecting their sellers from the mysterious pressure tactics of big bad buyer agents. Or they’re heavily relying on technology and totally discounting the human element. Or they’re attempting to save themselves time and effort by circumventing a proven process that’s been around since before they were born. Or they see the buyer rep as a mere courier and would relegate them to solitary confinement anyway while they privately consult with their seller. Whatever their faulty reasoning, unless someone can convince me otherwise, they’re doing their sellers a serious disservice.
Having both reps present increases the overall odds of a successful negotiation. The listing agent enjoys the good fortune of being able to ask questions about the buyer and their offer and to have the seller hear the answers – unfiltered – directly from the buyer’s agent. And it allows the buyer’s agent a fair opportunity to professionally plead their client’s case. Prior to signing back the offer, to test the waters, the seller’s rep can ask the buyer agent to call their client. In other words, it’s a great opportunity to negotiate terms and to avoid having to make unilateral decisions in a vacuum.
If you intend to help your seller make the smartest decision, information is imperative. How the buyer agent responds – verbally and nonverbally – can speak volumes. You could ask questions by phone. But asking strategic questions face to face presents the valuable opportunity to witness and interpret body language, voice intonations and nuance which, in turn, allows you to more competently advise your seller. You get the chance to dance, to develop a feeling about the buyer, and to discuss various strategic counter-offer options.
Imagine for a moment what would happen in a union/management grievance meeting without a representative from each side sitting at the table; not much chance of success. Without the buyer agent in attendance, your seller misses the chance to express themselves to someone who could perhaps directly influence the buyer. With only the listing agent present, there’s no repartee, no professional jousting between the two sides. With polar opposite positions, your seller could push – often unreasonably – with no resistance. In my opinion, that’s not negotiation – it’s demanding.
In my next column of this series on offer negotiation, I address the steps involved in what proved for me to be an effective personal offer presentation style.