Every day we are being hired by clients to help them buy or sell real estate. Everything we do as agents is geared towards getting our clients to the closing table. The degree of your success can depend on your skills as a negotiator yet so few agents take courses specific to increasing their skills or ask for special training on how to be a good negotiator. I have seen buyers lose a house they really wanted because of the poor negotiation skills of their buyer’s agent.

I have seen listing agents be so unbending and domineering that the buyer’s agent gave up and suggested their buyers look elsewhere. A good negotiator keeps emotion at bay, is patient, asks questions and tries to substitute options or trade offs. Although everyone can’t always win every point, everyone can come away feeling they got ‘something.’ Say your client agrees to pay a little more in price but the seller throws in a home warranty. This could add some value to the price they are paying and the benefit to the buyer is they won’t have to worry about spending all their available cash and then having the dishwasher or furnace go out.

By the time you get to the negotiation table you should know your clients wants and needs by asking them lots of questions. If you understand what are their “must get” versus “we would like but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker”you can negotiate from a postition of knowlege rather than a guessing game. Consider the benefits of planning your strategy so you can give focus to the negotiation and help guide the parties to a successful conclusion.

Begin each negotiation by setting the stage. This is when trust is established and it is the time to set the atmosphere. If trust is not established, the negotiations will usually fail. It’s usually more productive to create a friendly, cooperative climate. Avoid getting down to business too quickly.

Here are some actions we can do to establish a cooperative climate when we approach a negotiating situation:

 Shake hands
 Establish rapport
 Show empathy
 Have a positive attitude
 Keep the atmosphere warm and friendly
 Show respect

Things we do that might influence the negotiating climate in a negative way include being too demanding, close-minded or unresponsive to the other party’s needs and interests. If you are successful in establishing a cooperative climate, you will never have to negotiate with a stranger. Remember many times the tone for the coming negotiation is set when the two agents first begin their communications. If it takes one agent 4 days to get the other agent to respond to a phone call, the impression is ‘great I am going to be chasing this agent for responses throughout the whole deal!” If that other agent treats our questions with impatience or unimportance, we are immediately going to label that agent as ‘difficult’ to deal with. In representing our clients our job is to be cooperative, enthusiastic, encouraging and helpful to the other agents. If both sides practiced this was of doing business think how much fun negotiating could be.

As a guide your negotiation, take a look at these negotiating rules.

Rule 1: Separate people from the problem. Often, during the negotiating process, emotions become involved. Then it becomes necessary to deal with emotional issues using emotional means.
For example:
 If the buyers or sellers display high emotions, allow them to let off steam. Don’t react to their outbursts. Try to change the focus of the discussion to a less emotional area.
 If they have inaccurate information or inaccurate perceptions, you may need to educate them. Try to understand their point of view and where they are coming from. Remember that understanding their point of view is not the same as agreeing with it.
 Use written documentation and third-party information to change their perception. Discuss each other’s perceptions and never say “You’re wrong.”
 If misunderstanding has occurred, look for ways to improve communication. Listen actively and give feedback when appropriate.

Rule #2: Show respect.
You are not going to necessarily see eye to eye with all parties in the transaction, even your own customers/clients. If a negotiation can fail, it will fail here. When you lose respect, you lose the ability to effectively do your job, to negotiate on behalf of your customer/client. You must maintain your integrity and respect, even in the most difficult moments. This is the time when professionalism counts. Show respect by observing the following:
 Listen and be courteous
 Don’t be defensive of your position
 Express appreciation for their time and effort
 Ask open-ended questions
 Emphasize your concern with meeting their needs
 Communicate, communicate, communicate

Rule #3: Focus on interests, not positions.
A “position” is a statement that reflects the decision “here’s what I want.” When negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to lock themselves into those positions. A person’s “interest” can be uncovered by simply asking why. When you
ask why, make it clear that you are not asking for justification, but seeking solutions and trying to understand what interests lie beneath the position they defend.

Often Open-ended questions can help identify underlying interests: Ask the why, what and when questions.
Why is that important to you?
What is driving that concern?
When could you feel comfortable ___?

Positions and Interests are demonstrated in the following buyer example:

Position: (What I want) “I have to close in 30 days. A closing of 45 days simply because the seller can’t move until then is just not an option.”
Interest: (Why it’s important) “We have given notice to the apartment manager and have to be out in 30 days.”

Rule #4: Seek options.
Once you understand the interests that are driving the stated position, explore all the options that might give a satisfactory solution. The following options address the interests of the purchaser above:
 Close in 45 days and negotiate for the buyers to remain in their apartment for an additional 15 days.
 Close in 30 days and negotiate for the sellers to find interim housing upon closing.
 Close in 30 days and negotiate for delayed occupancy, with the sellers paying rent to the buyers for the additional 15 days until they can move.
 Close in 45 days and negotiate for the sellers to cover the buyers’ extra 15 days of rent by either reducing the sales price, paying additional closing costs, or paying the buyer directly. It is important when creating options not to be critical or judgmental but to open your mind to the possibilities. Explore each option individually and find the best solution that meets the needs of both parties.

What would happen if you don’t get ____?
In bringing the negotiation to a conclusion, it is important not to give up because of sustained frustration. This is where the top negotiator shines with mental toughness. Look for ways to make the other person feel like he has a win so he will
compromise on issues he has been stubborn on. Establish finality gradually but firmly. Two little words can be very helpful in this trade-off process: “if” and “then.”

For example:
If we could agree to that price, then would you agree to a 90- day escrow?
If the sellers would agree to paying interim rent, would you be willing to close in 45 days?
Negotiations often fall apart for the following reasons
•Lack of confidence
•Not recognizing the other side’s situation
•Viewing as a win/lose situation

I hope you will all think back over any failed negotiations and review why they didn’t work, what made you uncomfortable, what you could have handled in a better way and was there any way you could have negotiated for a different outcome?

Now take a look at your successful negotiations..the sales that closed. What did you do differently to secure the sale? How was the interaction with the other agent different? Was there something that you said or did that you felt really good about? A negotiation is successful if it is efficient, produces a wise agreement when agreement is possible, and improves or at least does not harm the relationship between the negotiating parties.

Building a relationship of trust, understanding, respect and friendship can make later negotiations smoother. Base the relationship on accurate perceptions, clear communication, appropriate emotions, and a forward looking outlook. Trying to focus on the basic interests of each side, rather than on “winning” or “losing” will likely produce more efficient results. Keeping an open mind yet being well prepared pro¬vides an opportunity to invent options which could serve the interests of both sides and speed up the negotiation.

I hope this has given you some negotiation tips that you can use and will help you close more sales.

Have a Safe and Prosperous Weekend


Carve out your Niche!

Traditional prospecting can be downright scary – cold calling, door knocking – who knows what ghost or ghouls await you. There’s no magic potion to make prospects call you when they need a REALTOR®, but there is one “spooktacular” tool available that can be exceptionally powerful – social media. Here’s what social media can do for you, and more importantly, how it helps clients and prospects: Leveraging social media marketing is just plain smart, especially for those who are running their business on a budget. (who isn’t?) How else can you reach thousands of customers and prospects all over the globe without zero advertising costs?

Social media is not the beginning, nor is it the end. It is a part of the journey. Your message, be it educational, call to action or your brand awareness is your top priority. Use all the necessary channels to reach and meet your target audience.

1) Provide a way to expand your sphere of influence, allowing you to interact with clients and prospects in a way they are growing increasingly accustomed to, making it easier for customers to do business with you.

2) Give you a voice to make connections and build relationships. You can control the message, demonstrate your market knowledge and expertise, and more importantly, learn about your clients and prospects needs and concerns. Helping customers solve their problems is what makes a good REALTOR® a great REALTOR®.

3) Provide a means for more referrals, passed on by trusted friends, associates and families rather than through a search engine. Plus, customers have the opportunity to work with someone they feel a connection with.

4) Offer you a fast means of communication. Post property photos and home tours and ask your friends to spread the word about your listings. By posting videos and photos, you are making it easier for prospects to check out your listings without a scheduled tour.

Treat your customers to good listening skills and engaging, relevant content.

Where does the time go? Check out these stats to find out

• Each Facebook user spends on average 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site
• More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices
• More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook
• 300,000 users helped translate Facebook into 70 languages
• People on Facebook install 20 million “Apps” every day
• YouTube has 490 million unique users who visit every month (February 2011)
• Wikipedia hosts 17 million articles
• People upload 3,000 images to Flickr every minute
• 190 million average tweets per day occur on Twitter (May 2011)
• Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day

(Sources: Facebook statistics, Royal Pingdom, Twitter, Techcrunch Sept. 2011)

Yikes! I left my listing presentation on the copier at the office and my appointment is in 30 minutes.
First of all, the client will probably thank you. You see contrary to what most agents believe the majority of clients are bored to death sitting through an agent’s listing presentation. “This is what my company is all about; this is what I do for my clients, this how great I am, this is what others have said about me…yada.. yada.. yada…”

All the time you are talking at them the client is really waiting for the bottom line. What price will my house sell for? How long will it take? How much will I walk away with? Will I get anything out of my house? Remember talking at someone is the fastest way to lose their attention.

Having said that sellers are bored with your presentation, don’t get me wrong. I think the clients need to know about your company, your marketing, your plan to get their home sold and what others have said about you, but not at the listing table! Why read to them what they can read for themselves?

Whether you do a one stop listing or a two stop, (where you go by and preview the home and take some photos prior to your listing appointment) the client should have all the information about you, your company, your marketing plan and all the paperwork that the client will be completing if you decide to work together, PRIOR to your listing meeting.

I suggest filling in all the paperwork you will be leaving them as thoroughly as you can ahead of time and that includes your commission. Give them samples of the marketing you will be doing and sites to go to.ie your website, facebook business page, Utube if you video homes and neighborhoods, your blog, etc.
(oh, be sure to look at your website because they will I can assure you and it wouldn’t hurt to Google yourself to see what others are seeing as well)

To take this one step further, I was at a network gathering and an agent said they now send their listing presentation to all of their clients, so they know what it will be like working with them BEFORE they are ready to sell… Then when their clients are ready to sell, they said they always get the call first! That was an interesting concept.

Just like you should be prequalifying the seller prior to your meeting, you will ask the client to review everything ahead of time and you will cover any questions they might have during the listing meeting. When you walk into your listing appointment it is a business meeting and the focus is on the clients, their home, their needs and taking the listing. You bring only the CMA presentation. They already have everything else. If they have concerns, they will address them, otherwise focus on the market and what that means to them and the sale of their home.

Your time to shine comes during the listing meeting so practicing presenting price is something I highly recommend. You want to be able to confidently and powerfully, without coming across arrogantly, be able to discuss market values with your client. They are looking to you for direction and must trust you as their professional advisor to educate and lead them to the right decision for their situation. Have the courage to tell the truth up front about the right price. A great way to open the conversation at the beginning of the listing meeting is by asking them this question. “Is our objective tonight to list your home or to properly position it to be purchased?”

Decide ahead of time, based on your potential listings competition, a price range at which you are willing to take the listing. Do not take it if it’s going to be an overpriced listing. You are actually harming the client if you do. The longer a home sits on the market, the harder it is to sell. If it isn’t selling in 45 days, it’s overpriced and that is, in any market in any area, a fact. Be honest with the client up front about what price it will take to actually get the home sold, and not just have it listed. Your opinion of the right listing price is primarily what the client wants to hear. That doesn’t mean that they might not try to dissuade you into taking it a little higher “we can always come down can’t we” but in today’s market that could mean months on the market as an unsold listing. No, if you are convinced of the range the house should be listed, stick to it.

A couple of last comments regarding taking overpriced listings.
1. Don’t take them. No listing at all is better than advertising you can’t sell a house and that is what you are doing when you take an overpriced listing.
2. Most agents value referrals. Overpriced listings do not refer you.
3. Overpriced listings sell for below market value when you have to resort to price reductions. All the sellers remember is that you cost them the $$ difference between the original list price and a final sales price, if it eventually does sell.
4. Let them list with someone else who is willing to take it at their price but suggest to them that when that agent asks for the first price reduction, say no thank you and call me because I was the one who was honest with you.
5. When you have clients in your pipeline, you will choose to be selective. If an overpriced seller is the only prospect on your horizon you will lie to yourself just to have busy work.

Remember this question: Are you listing a house or positioning the seller for an offer?

Have a safe and prosperous weekend!

If you have been in sales for any length of time you have at one time or another experienced running into what I call the “Slump Hump.” It is that barrier in your path to success that can come at any time in your career and no one is immune to it. Whether it is market driven or activity driven, everyone who is in sales can point to a time when they worried at night about where their next sale was going to come from. It’s how you pull yourself up and get over the “slump hump” hurdle that will make the difference between your having a successful year or a dismal year. As soon as you feel concern about where your next sale is coming from it’s time to run a self analysis. You don’t want to wait and see what’s coming next, or not.

Begin by tracking your daily schedule hour by hour for one week, then the next, then the next. Do you see any patterns in how you are spending your time (no excuses)? You will discover one of a couple of things. Either you are not doing enough activities that are high gain (prospecting) or you are using the wrong approach and need some new scripts and skills for the current market. Either way, it is fixable.

First and foremost go back to basics. This is what all sales people and athletes must do when their performance has gone off kilter. Get out your client/sphere roster and start making phone calls on a regular systematic basis again. Few of us like making calls, but if you’re in sales, you have to pick up the phone. Don’t forget while making these calls to ask for referrals. If you are in a slump, you need help so don’t be afraid to ask.

Start sending hand written follow up notes, birthday cards, anniversary cards, sending out emails and going to coffee or lunch with friends again. Really work on your social skills. Engaging in conversation with people is what we are best at. It’s too easy in this business of becoming stuck in paperwork and problem solving. Make sure you are enjoying the business as well. My motto has always served me well and that’s “when I quit having fun at work, that is when I need to quit working.”

Get dressed for business and go to work. If what you are doing between Monday and Friday isn’t getting you the business, take a look at how you are treating your business. Are you dressing as a professional or have you started letting yourself get sloppy? Are you going to work each day with the intention of setting a new appointment or are you just ‘going to the office?” Maybe you have to start working nights and weekends again. If the hours and days are generating leads, you might need to work more days and or longer hours to regenerate your business.

Have you given up doing open houses? What better place to meet new people who want to talk houses than at an open house? One of my agents was not only behind in her desk fee she carried over a deficit from the year before. Rather than giving up, she started coaching every week and working a plan. One month before her new year was up, she had her deficit and her desk fee paid and she did it by holding several open houses a week and even some on weekdays to meet new people. FSBO, Expireds and canvassing neighborhoods are still viable prospecting opportunities as well.

Build some new relationships. Join a new club, social group, sports activity, non-profit. Any area that is of interest where you will meet people with similar likes, is great. This will pay off two fold. You are meeting people with common interests and they are new to you and can be added to your network. People like doing business with others who share common ground. This is highly overlooked in our industry and you really should consider looking into it.

Engage and Educate your Sphere.
•Direct mail. It’s not dead, in fact, there’s more opportunity than ever since fewer people are using it.
•Hosting events. For first time home buyers, investors, expireds, FSBOs, — any focused group is a terrific way to differentiate yourself as an expert while making those all-important connections.
•Social media. Heaven forbid none of you are still “not engaging” in Social Media from a business standpoint. You should all have a business page by now. There’s no denying that these platforms are most definitely extending agents ability to reach out and stay engaged.
*The next step is to start creating videos and posting them. Did you know that 73% of homeowners are more likely to list with a Realtor that is willing to do video, but only 12% of the real estate industry current even have a YouTube account.
•Look at your front page of your website. You all have customizable websites that are provided to you. What have you done with yours? Does it jump out and say check me out I am an expert or is it B-O-R-I-N-G… Take a look at a few others and see how they are using market statistics, video, and links to say I am a specialist and you should call me. (go look at http://www.grahammarden.com for great example of a website that screams I am a specialist for homes on the water … and Graham will be the first to tell you he is not a techie kind of person!)

Sales agents who are in a slump must not join the “misery loves company” group. It’s easy to migrate to the low producers and share sob stories but that isn’t going to help one bit. Instead engage in learning and self improvement. Go to any and all sales training classes, motivational classes, office network groups, on line webinars or read a motivational book. Hang out with the productive agents and go where they are going. Visit them at their open houses and don’t be afraid to ask them how they got the listing, etc. Most successful agents like to share their stories. Learn from them.

Get A Business Plan or Revisit the one you have and tweak it if needed. A business plan is your formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons why you believe they are attainable, and your plan for reaching those goals.

Let go of your “perfectionism” and in the words of Nike, “just do it.” Fear can be a slump hump maker. When we are trying to get out of our comfort zone, it’s natural to experience some fear. We can get hung up on what others will think or frozen because “what if I come across a little corny. OK, now I am not insinuating that you don’t care about looking professional but you also shouldn’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t try something new out of fear. After all, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball and Jim Carrey all became millionaire stars for being corny.

As always, we are here to help.

Have a Safe and Prosperous Weekend

Are you working in today’s world or are you stuck in the pre-2000 era when it comes to marketing and where you spend your $$. Print was the marketing media of choice by real estate companies and brokers alike. Placement of ads in magazines and newspapers was expected of brokerages by both the clients and their brokers. As brokerages started paying out higher splits, they begin passing more of the marketing decisions and costs on to their brokers.

In the days of print media, brokerages judged their results by the number of ‘ad calls’ or visitors to open houses. Since few brokerages have the old ‘floor desk’ concept any longer, we have no tracking system for where the calls are coming from if the ad was in print form. In my old days we used to have a floor call log and every time the phone rang the floor person had to fill in the time, who the caller was, what they were calling on and how did they find us, sign, ad, magazine, yellow pages, etc.

Many agents have decided the little trade magazines were the worst investment for time sensitive material so we have seen those dwindling as well. I think some hang onto them because of their shelf life and the fact they like to see their own picture and homes in color in print. I am sure used right they can still generate some leads for brokers. With any type of marketing you should always be asking “What am I actually getting for my money?” Is the exposure great enough and is my return paying off

In a society that now expects to get their data in real-time, it became apparent that brokerages and brokers were throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at print media for marking that was dated by the time it hit the newsstands. The other issue was the lack of ability to track their results with any proof of the impact they were having on the consumers they were trying to reach. Now that consumers have made the shift from print media to online media in the real estate search process, brokers have a wide array of online ad opportunities. If they are affiliated with a tech savvy brokerage, their online advertising offers the opportunity to measure and track consumer behavior, and to know when real estate advertising is effective.

Of course with any marketing you can still be throwing money to the wind hoping that it will get picked up and read by the right person or you can work with a company that understands how consumers search, what they see, what they choose to click on, are all pieces of information that can give us insight into what consumers are looking for, what makes them gravitate toward one website, one listing or one blog versus another, and most of all, exactly how many consumers saw the marketing you put out there and how many leads were generated as a result. Knowing different behaviors can provide us with different degrees of consumer interest, it’s important that your formats allows for making weekly, even daily updates easily. While your job is still being in front of the clients, listing and selling homes, you do have to pay attention to what your marketing is saying about you and your business 24/7.

Unless you have hired a marketing director, most of you are responsible for doing most of this yourself. Because we understand website design and online marketing covers a lot of arenas, we are using the last couple of months of this year to hold small workshops to help our brokers create the marketing image they want the world to see for 2012. Are you as happy with your online presence as you could be? If not, come join us!

Friday Flash: Great news Pru Agents: In addition to accessing the news and videos available through the new Real Estate Information Network starting next week you will receive:
The daily communication “Today’s Real Estate Advisor,” which will be provided by Prudential Northwest Properties to help keep you informed about what is happening in the industry, provide tips for success in today’s environment and updates on issues you should be aware of to better serve their clients.
• A monthly e-newsletter titled “Social Media Matters,” which will focus on the best practices and strategic ways you can leverage social networking to increase your business.
• A digital subscription to Real Estate magazine each month, to review the latest industry news publication, chock full of interviews, studies and new ideas on how to enhance and increase your business.

• Additional benefits will be announced soon. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the new information being made available to you.

Have a Safe and Prosperous Weekend


Negotiate your way to Closing

A broker is a party that arranges transactions between a buyer and a seller  and gets a commission when the deal is executed and closed. In order to close the transaction a broker has many negotiations to handle along the way.  Not all two transactions are exactly the same but the steps and skills we use are. 

 One of my many mentors told me being a good negotiator is all about using common sense and having a clear understanding of those for who you are negotiating and their needs.   For example it’s a given that if someone is coming to the bargaining table, it’s because they want something.  The challenge for an agent when acting as the messenger is being able to dig deep and aim to understand what the particular objective is that is most important for your client.   What would a satisfied outcome look like for them?  Is it price, terms or some sort of added value items that is most important? We can’t risk making assumptions for our clients that could lock them into a positional bargaining corner that they can’t get out of and still save face.  I have heard agents make statements at the table that flat out say NO ‘my client will not___!  The opposite side then folds their arms and says, well they better or we will quit talking to them.   Now you have a standoff.  Ultimatums are seldom successful at the negotiation table.  It is only when the client says NO MORE, I am Done that you ever want to play that card.   Instead try to if you can keep it going with “I understand your position but could we maybe come up with at a couple of alternatives?  Let’s see if we can’t agree to a compromise that both sides could work with?”  

The negotiation process involves a great deal of give and take and our job is to offer   options and alternatives that might allow our client to accept giving up one concession in return for getting another.    Remember this rule: Every concession must yield a reward.   

 Mary Parker Follett was a woman who had to negotiate to get where she wanted to be.   Although she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1898, she was denied a doctorate at Harvard on the grounds that she was a woman.  Mary Parker Follett went one to be one of the few great women management gurus in the early days of classical management theory.   One of her quotes stands out in my mind.

“There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.”  

She wrote in an article published in 1926 and used the following as an example to support her teachings.  I think it demonstrates her theory well.

  “A Dairyman’s Co-operative League almost went to pieces last year over the question of precedence in unloading cans at a creamery platform,” Two groups of truckers, one coming up a hill and one going down, both wanted to unload first.   According to Follett, both sides’ thinking was “confined within the walls of these two possibilities.”

However, she wrote that an outsider came up with a different approach:  Change the position of the platform so that “the up-hillers and down-hillers could each pull in on different sides and unload at the same time.”

This remarkably simple solution allowed both sides to get what they wanted without having to toss a coin, take turns, split the difference, or carefully analyze their underlying interests.

Whenever negotiators are in a conflict, as when they’re haggling over a mutually desired resource, they are likely to view the situation from vastly different perspectives. You may think you’re acting strategically and legitimately, but your counterpart probably disagrees.

 In addition to understanding the motive and outcome desired by our clients, we need to be aware that bargaining styles are highly culture-dependent as well.  While the German culture is averse to bargaining in general, the Asian, Hispanic, Russian, Armenian, and Turkish cultures are some cultures that see hard bargaining as a necessary part of the buying or selling process but also as a way of life.  

While most everyone wants a good deal, people from negotiating countries must believe they got a good deal or they simply will not go through with the transaction. The good deal isn’t bases just the lowest price or cheapest commission but you must demonstrate to them that the price or commission has good value.   They take great pride in their bargaining skills and if they believe that they are overpaying, they will start renegotiating.  As their messenger your job is to understand this and know that it is not uncommon to continue asking for concessions even after an agreement has been reached.  Of course in this situation sellers/buyers and the agents become quickly irritated.

A well-educated client is the easiest client to work with.  It is a good practice to invest time in educating your customers on the real estate business and process. By seeing for themselves ( through Property Search and the PIPS) the comparable active, pending and sold properties, you are helping your clients to have realistic expectations. Pointing out time on the market, list to sold prices and data for the area that is pertinent to them will help the client understand the market dynamics. Talk to them about next negotiating step once a contract is agreed upon which will be the repair addendum and following that will be the appraisal process and the possible scenarios if a property does not appraise for the contract price.

 Check your emotions at the door and be professional. Calm and assertive communication gets deals done.”Buying and selling real estate for our customers is our business and you can’t let it become about you and personal.   The best ways to keep peace between the buyer and seller is not passing along nasty comments made by one to the other. You can give them the information but keep the tone calm.  As a real estate agent, never say anything bad about the buyer, seller or make the other agent the ‘bad’ guy.

Document the client’s wishes in writing via sales contracts, counter offers or addendums.  Be timely, be clear and keep in mind that whatever you put in writing should be able to be read by an uniformed 3rd party and they should be able to read back what the intentions of the parties were, without a verbal explanation by you.  One last piece of advice. There may come a time when negotiations reach a point when “we have to know that talking and dealing with this person isn’t going to happen at this time and we need to be able to move on.”  You can’t want the deal more than the client!

10 tips for better negotiations in any situation.

1) Seeking first to understand, then to be understood because suspending judgment is the foundation of clear thought.

2) Explore – Don’t debate. Attack the problem – Not the person.

3) Listen for agreement – not disagreement.

4) Ask questions, don’t restate your position.

5) Don’t prepare your response while they are talking.

6) Don’t interrupt.

7) Treat the person’s values, needs and interests with respect.

8) Manage your reactivity and take responsibility for your actions.

9) Keep focused on the goals and values.

10) Be assertive about the need to collaborate!

Have a safe and prosperous weekend!

 I want to begin by congratulating our own Rob Levy who will lead a panel of experts at the Summit this year and West Portland’s Jennifer Turner who will be one of the prestigious panel members.  They are great examples of  two agents who visualize, plan and take action to reach their goals, which is the message of today’s blog. The Summit Conference is an exclusive by invitation only event for Prudential Real Estate Chairman’s Circle, President’s Circle and Leading Edge Society award winners. 

Casisus Marcellus Clay, Jr., trained for boxing every single day.  He mastered the fundamentals, mastered his attitude and truly believed it when he shouted to the world “I am the Greatest.”  I can believe not a day went by that he didn’t utter that chant over and over as he trained.  He was driven to success by his own supreme belief that he was indeed the greatest boxer in contention at that time. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali and went on from the Olympics to winning the Heavyweight Champion of the world, not once but twice.

I believe inside each one of us there is a desire to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday or today. Some days we succeed and other days something comes along and diverts our course of action or worse, sets us back mentally wise and it takes us a few days to motivate and rejuvenate ourselves again.  It’s hard to stay on a steady course forward in our business isn’t it?

I wish there was a magic pill we could all take and immediately we had the skills, knowledge and business sense to accomplish whatever we are dreaming for ourselves.  Sadly that isn’t possible so the best advice I can give you is an outline of a plan to success.  You can become the greatest but it’s going to take more work, training, coaching and dedication than many people of you reading this are willing to commit to.

So if you are still with me at this point,  let’s talk about what your game plan might look like.

  • Visualize what Super Success looks like to you.  

If you can dream it, go for it!   Are you living in a nicer house somewhere? Are you driving a more expensive car(s) or have an array of ‘adult’ toys? Are there more awards on your wall?  Are people talking about your success when they refer to real estate in your area? Are you on a Caribbean island sipping a nice cold drink with your family splashing in the surf? Is the retirement for you in the next 10 years?

  • Believe you have the right to success. 

An agent once told me she was so surprised at her own success and her ability to be making a 6 figure income.  (Which at the time homes were selling for an average of $50,000 so that was pretty darned good)  When I asked why she felt undeserving she said “in school I was never the brightest kid in class.  I always had to study harder to make my grades.” I never stood out and I never received any recognition for my efforts.  My question to her was how many college professors with high IQ’s do you know who are millionaires? (No disrespect intended just used to make a point)  Brains alone will not allow a person reach their potential, they must apply their brawn!  (work) Determination, discipline and drive got you where you are.  You see Mary, it’s not always the brightest who reaches their potential but the one who recognizes what they personally need to do to overcome any obstacles and get to their goal.

  • Understand your talents.

Know your likes and dislikes and learn how to capitalize on them?  Selling real estate is a social activity. It’s pretty hard to get a sale or take a listing is you don’t engage in some contact activities with people.  One of the best ways for bringing people along side you is to find mutual things of interest. Start by looking at opportunities to join clubs, groups, help out at school activities if you have children, engage in sports or do volunteer activities.  There are book clubs, financial investment clubs (great if you are numbers oriented), Wine tasting groups, cooking, sewing and knitting groups.  Facebook has connected a lot of people who have formed great networking groups just because they all said the ‘liked’ something.  If you are really talented at a particular hobby, offer to teach others. If you want to learn, find a teacher.

  • Don’t believe it’s ever too late. 

Harlan Sanders at 65 set out in his old car with a pressure cooker and a can of his specialty flour.  He sold his receipt for Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 75 for $2,000,000 after his first restaurant was put out of business by a new state highway and he was flat broke.

  • Create a new mental attitude.

Maybe easier said than done but you can choose to be negative or you can choose to see the positive of things.  Your choice. If your income has not varied for the last 5 years, you are most likely in what I call the “granite statue” period of your life.  You are either satisfied where you are or you are convinced it is the best you can do.  If you want more, then you must mentally alter your attitude and go after it.

  • Do you have a daily plan to success?

In our business you can write your own schedule.  You can determine what activities you put into your schedule and you can determine how you want your business model to look like.  If you aren’t making enough sales, most likely if you look back at your schedule for the last few weeks or months you will see a lack of appointments or prospecting activities. There is a direct correlation to the two.  What you do today affects your paycheck tomorrow.

  • Bask in small successes.

It takes one step at a time to cover a mile.  One of my real estate coach said “getting better isn’t an event but a journey.”   Savor the small wins as they are just rungs in the victory ladder.

  • Recharge, Redirect or Re Evaluate

When things get uncomfortable or aren’t working anymore step back and figure out why.  We can’t keep going down the same old path expecting to get to a different destination.  Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone in order to take the next step forward.  Make a list of all the things you like about your job.  Then list all the things you hate.  High light which things on each list are high gain activities?  If the things you hate are all the high gain activities required to generate clients and business then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your desire remain in sales.  If your list is more filled with things you like to do but they just don’t seem to be working for you anymore, schedule a meeting with your manager and talk it out so you can identify what needs fixing.  There is a little book called Who Moved My Cheese.  This is a great book for our times and for anyone who has found what used to work for them, isn’t.  If you are bored with the way your business is going, then maybe go to some recharging seminars or dig out some of those sales tapes to listen to while driving around.   Sometimes we just need a jumpstart that will help us to renew our energy again.    Success really occurs twice ~ once in your mind and then in reality!

  • Yes, you can be as great as you want!
  1.  Figure out what it is you want.
  2.  Decide you deserve it
  3.  Believe it is yours if you want it.
  4.  Have the guts to ask for it. 

    Have a safe and prosperous week.

Are you a Possibilitarian?

 “Someone who believes anything is possible.”  “Someone who sees what is possible and goes after it.”  “Today’s Ultimate Entrepreneur.”  “Someone who believes it is time to take their economic matters into their own hands.”  A Possibilitarian guides their business with a futuristic vision.”  “A Possibilitarian doesn’t see limits, they see Challenges.”  A Possibilitarian doesn’t stop at obstacles, they hurdle them or find another way around,”  “I have a dream.”  

 If any of these descriptions ring a bell with you, then most likely are a Possibilitarian.

First understand as a possibilitarian in the real estate industry you are a business entrepreneur.  You are your own leader and you are your own CEO & CFO.  You set your own work schedule, your own financial goals, and your own production goals and determine how you want your business model to look.  Sure you may operate under a local company or franchise brokerage but in order to reach all things possible, it will be necessary to develop your own leadership skills. 

 Here are just some of what it takes to be a leader and possibilitarian of your own business.

  • Balance work and life. Be disciplined and consistent.  This is the basic leadership skill set needed to remain on track and stay focused. This means you set your schedule & you stick to it. Following a schedule is one of the hardest things a possibilitarian has to learn.  The same traits that enable us to break away from the 9-5 regular check job is also the same traits that tempt us to want to fly by the seat of our pants, so to speak.  We all struggle with this one! You have your work time, family time and play time.  Don’t forget though, when we quit having any fun at work, we lose our balance.
  • Every work day your schedule should have money making activities set in stone.  Schedule what has to happen to earn money first, then schedule in the tasks and then schedule some fun time..  Don’t sacrifice any of these scheduled times for another, i.e. don’t give your family time away to work. Be consistent, be rigid (when it comes to the ‘gotta minutes” that disrupt you) be disciplined and this will bring you balance.  Right now open your calendar and look at it.  What are your money making activities and how much time is allotted to those activities? How many hours (days) are filled with white space?  Put something in that white space. If you aren’t going to do something to make money, then do something for your health or well being.
  • Being a Possibilitarian you may struggle with staying on task and focused. You want to focus on the things that are going to move your business forward. You want to focus on the tasks that will grow your business. You want to arrange your daily focus so that it produces results for you and your clients.   If you take a listing, what activities are you scheduling to promote that listing? Are you circling calling or mailing to the neighbors?  Remember many people move into a neighborhood because they already know someone who lives there. Don’t overlook the obvious. If you focus on paper shuffling, reading your emails or internet surfing you may work all day, however your business will not be moving forward because you have focused in the wrong areas. Monitor your focus with high gain activities to achieve maximum results.
  • Just Say NO.   It’s important to having discernment with yourself and others.  Know what you are willing to do or not do to grow your business.  It’s OK to say “No” to certain clients, agents and organizations.  Be ethical, be honest and be true to yourself.
  • Being a possibilitarian will mean that you must stay on top of your industry’s law changes in order to understand them and in turn be able to help your clients understand what these changes mean to them.  
  • Possibilitarian can choose to build a business to become financially independent, gain self gratification and achieve a dream.  They also can do so while serving others in a way that helps humanity and is something to feel passionate about.  Have a big vision. This is one of the most important areas of your business because if your vision is too small you will lose interest in what you are doing and probably quit. Make your business aspiration something of value for humanity and yourself and you will succeed.
  • Assess &Evaluate.  It’s crucial to understand what you’re good at and what you would like to become good at as well as what you should outsource to others.  If you are having trouble leading yourself, you may not be ready to hire a team but if you are having trouble keeping up with paperwork and marketing tasks, by all means, hire it out. See the difference?  You must self assess &evaluate before ever making hiring decisions.  A possibilitarian is always looking at what improvement in their skill sets they would like to work on. Learning is never ending. In fact, it is a lifelong ongoing process that creates success if you embrace it.
  • Maintaining a healthy and positive mindset under sometimes stressful circumstances is so important when dealing with the day to day activities of small business ownership. Mind management will improve productivity & the outcome is stronger sales, healthier working environments and more enthusiasm for your work. Staying up on the latest innovations by reading books, audios and videos on techniques to help you manage your mind are everywhere and worth the investment to achieve the success you envision. Participating in seminars and training sessions help keep your mind alert and gives you the bursts of energy that we all need periodically.
  • Personality and Attitudes.  Having a set of values you follow and abide by will make you a popular person to work with. In sales people hire you if they like and trust you.  Fellow associates want to be around you if you are polite, don’t gossip, and have an upbeat attitude. It takes very little effort to give praise to colleagues and staff on their personal achievements or something work related they did for you or a college.  This is such an important habit and whether you know it or not, it will become part of your branding too.
  • Stand proud of being in sales and show confidence. Nobody wants to work with a leader who has no back bone or is an introvert. No one wants to entrust their business to a leader who leads like a limp wet noodle. A leader must develop a command presence with a can- do attitude.   What does your presence in a room say? Sellers and buyers want to work with leaders.
  • Technology has changed the way we communicate.  Much of it involves communication skills of being able to speak in less than 140 characters.  We communicate in real time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs and Twitter.  Our listing inventory is as current and accurate as the agent who updates it.  We are the age of information providers. We use electronic devices and electronic signatures to list and sell property.  We can sit on a plane and get an email. “Client wants to write an offer.”  We can write it, email it, get it signed all the way around, open escrow and set up the home inspection….all before our plane lands. This is a whole new form of communication skill sets that all leaders must master now. Texting skills are included in this form of communications.   I still maintain as I said in last week’s blog, I can still out negotiate your faxed offer.  When it comes to negotiations and whenever possible, they are most effective when done the old fashioned way.. face to face belly to belly at the table!  You can watch a client’s body language along with hearing the words.  I have totally shifted gears at the table when I realized that it wasn’t the price that was stalling my offer, it was the closing and possession date.  As soon as mentioned a quick close, thinking that was what they desired, I saw the wife look hard at her husband and realized this was a problem for the wife.

“Become a possibilitarian.  No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” – Norman Vincent Peale

You Fax I Win!

We work hard on our prospecting, listing and sales presentations but how much time do we invest on our discovery and negotiating skills.  Just ask a few questions and sometimes the clients or their agents can’t wait to tell everything they know about their motivation.  On competing offers it’s always much easier to win when you have the other agent(s) just fax or email in their offers and you are sitting there at their kitchen table building rappore for your clients offer with the sellers and the listing agent and plead on behalf of my buyers .  On hot properties with multiple offers, I always had my buyers out in the car or in the conference room so we could deal with a counter on the spot and end the negotiating.  Of course with laptops, ipads and our technology we are using Skype, sign my pad and esignatures to get the job done on the spot.

Ok I am going back a lot of years with this story but honestly folks, outside of technology, the people side of the business has not changed.  To be a powerful negotiator it pays to be observant when listing, pricing, showing, writing offers and getting them to closing. 

One instance in particular stands out.  It was a cute, under priced property listed for a quick sale. As I set the appointment to present my offer, I knew I had the “silver bullet” included in my offer and my negotiations that I was sure the other agent(s) had never even thought of asking her buyer the same question!

The owner was an elderly lady moving into a care center. Residing with her were two calico cats.  The mama and the daughter kitty had been her life.  In touring her home, it was apparent how she felt.  The kitchen and the bedroom had food and water bowls and there were cat beds and toys throughout the home. While my buyer, a young man who had just turned 21 and buying his first house, looked around I casually asked her “what is happening with the cats?  Are you taking them?”  Tears welled up and she said they couldn’t go with her and she didn’t know what she was going to do. They had grown up in the house and it was the only home they had ever known.

Well when my buyer and I sat down to write the offer I asked him how he felt about cats?  Good news, he wasn’t allergic and liked cats fine.  We wrote into the offer that the cats would remain with him when he bought the house.  Then he wrote her a nice note about how thrilled he was to be moving into a home that already had a “ready-made family” and if she needed to move before closing, he would come over every day after work and feed the cats until he could move in.    

There were 3 offers and mine was price wise in the middle but guess who’s offer was accepted.  We spend so much time talking about price that sometimes we overlook the fact that ‘terms’ can seal the deal.

Granted you aren’t often going to get this kind of slam dunk opportunity so it’s important you work on your skills.  I often tell my agents that anytime I can meet face to face I increase my ability to win for my client by at least 80%.  A fax machine cannot out negotiate a good agent.  Here are some thoughts on being a good negotiator.

Don’t leave the ball in your court unreturned.  In other words try always to get your client to counter back.  Even if it’s full price – no concessions.  If that is your client’s wishes, convey them in writing in a counter to the other side. 

Who has ever heard “This is our best offer” or “This is our bottom line,” and then they continued to negotiate?  No one knows what their best offer or bottom line is until they’ve either signed an agreement, or rejected one. When the other agent presents a counter-offer to you and tells you “this is the best we can do,”  that is fine.  It’s either an accept or counter situation.   More often than not,  the negotiation will continue beyond the previously stated “best” or “bottom.”

When negotiations get hot and heavy and deadlines allow withdraw.  Dead silence from your side. Don’t tell the other agent you’re “thinking about it” or going to “sleep on it,” just stop all communication until the next day. Very unsettling to the other side, and keeps your client from getting carried away by the emotion of the negotiation.  This tactic also helps your client from feeling they were pressured.  Slow it up and think it out, then make your next move. 

My personal opinion was to never asked a buyer or seller for their bottom line or highest-and-best. I learned when you force them to commit to a figure and they might be uncomfortable down the road if they’re willing to go higher or lower. A side benefit to this strategy is that you won’t be accused of spilling the beans to the other side if, by chance, the offer or counter comes in at the exact figure they shared with you. If a buyer or seller tells you what their highest-and-best or bottom line is, act as if you didn’t hear them.  

What I did always ask when  price was being negotiated was “how will you feel if you offer this price and you don’t get the house?” or to a seller “How will you feel if you counter the buyer with this price and they walk away?”  Asking that question usually opened up some more dialogue and more times than not, the buyer or seller rethought their counter and made an adjustment.  I always ended the negotiations with a summary of our offer and the “how will you feel if” question. 

Quit verbalizing your offers and refuse to play that game.  Get everything in writing – no oral negotiating. When agreements are reached over the phone or even in emails, something always comes up when it’s time to put the agreement on paper, creating unnecessary drama. It’s easy enough today to just “write it up,” and keeps everyone on the same page, so to speak.  I don’t care what they ‘say’ they will do, put it on paper so I can agree, counter or reject. 

When negotiating always remember whom you represent.  If you aren’t writing the mortgage checks then don’t say “I won’t allow my seller to do this or that.”  Same goes for buyers.  If you aren’t taking title, you are only the messenger and advisor, not the decision maker.  I absolutely cringe when I hear agents say “Well I would never!”  What you should be saying is my experience has not been great with contingent offers but put in writing, the seller is happy to see what your buyer have to offer and we will go from there.   You know maybe you wouldn’t want a contingent offer but maybe your client would!  Every transaction, every seller, every buyer, every agent, every loan officer, every title company are all different.  Keeping this in mind, helps you be a stronger negotiator and not make an idiot out of yourself with your own client or the other agents!

Here are some other tips to consider:

  • Make the offer price/counter price “attractive” to the other side by rounding up or down such as $279,900 versus $280,000 or by offering a home warranty or some other value added terms, like a longer or shorter closing date, a few extra days to from closing to possession at no cost, a few $ toward the buyers closing costs.   
  • When countering, use positive statements when possible – It sounds silly but instead of saying “seller will not spray for termites” say “Buyer to pay for termite remedy at their election.”
  • Realize that your client can say no – and that the other side sometimes fully expects them to.  Again, counter the ‘no’ with an option though.
  • Set expectations with your clients before you get to the offer stage (e.g. market conditions, communication, etc.) When you first meet a client, it’s going to be to your advantage and theirs to thoroughly discuss how you work and what your expectations of them are and what they can and CAN’T expect from you.  The Quality Service Guarantee is a perfect way to end the meeting.
  • Never get between the question and the answer.  Self explanatory I hope.
  • Negotiate delayed possession for staged and owner-occupied properties, in case the loan falls apart at the last minute or the seller needs some time to get their money in hand, get moved and GET the property cleaned properly.  You can’t expect a seller to have no money and be stressed over when it is going to come, moving  their stuff  out the back door while the buyer is moving in the front door (so to speak) and expect the house to be clean, nail holes filled and all perfect for the new buyer. As part of the negotiations give the seller 2 days after recording to move and get the house clean..and spell those expectations out to them as you present the offer.  Of course if the house is vacant or the seller is already moving, no worries but do write into the offer the buyer reserves the right to do a walk through after signing and prior to recording to make sure everything is the way it’s supposed to be.  If the seller is remaining more than 2 days after close, use the seller to remain in possession form and use a holdback, even if it’s only $1,000 or so. 
  • Win-win isn’t always possible but you can try to give the other side (other agent even) an opportunity to save face when negotiating.  If the other agents screws up on the sales agreement, write a counter offer fixing it.  I remember when one of my new agents turned in one of the first offers they had written.. a rejected offer that the listing agent had used a black felt pen to write in bold letters rejected across the offer. That was uncalled for.  Several years later my agent, now seasoned and doing quite well remarked how they never forgot how that agent made them feel and they avoided showing their listings ever since.  Even if there is no way the deal will get done, there is always another day and another house or client and you might just be sitting at the same table again.  Don’t be the agent from hell that has temper tantrums, is rude or is so controlling that no one wants to work with you.   It’s a small world we live in.

When working with buyers it’s always powerful to have your loan officer or theirs present at part of our initial sit down meeting. While they are going over financing you can be running potential properties to look at and getting your buyers packet ready to give them. The lender can summarize for you what the buyers qualifications are and you all can discuss any concerns with appraisals or financing. I never, and I repeat never had a transaction with a buyer and their lender that I hadn’t met their loan officer face to face prior to writing the offer. If they weren’t using my preferred lender, then my goal was to form a bond with their lender. After meeting them and talking expectations from their point and from mine, I always had a good working relationship with them. I can also tell you as a result of my professionalism they often sent me referrals as well. Only once did I have to go sit in a lender’s lobby because he wasn’t returning my calls.

Have a fun, safe and prosperous Labor Day weekend and will see everyone at our next sales meeting on September 13 when Terri Wilson will lead a discussion on red flags and what to be aware of when selling property with self contained sewage systems, wells, bare land, acreages, farms and ranches.

Also on September 14th at 10:30-noon at Standard TV & Appliance you are invited to hear from a panel of Six of your peers on “LISTED TO SOLD – HOW TO SELL THOSE LISTINGS YOUR WORK SO HARD TO GET!” &  MC Kim Dittler.

RSVP to reserve your seat:    broach@prunw.com or kim@kimdittlerrealestate.com