There are many reasons that negotiations for sale of a home can go wrong. Some can be resolved easily, some not. What do you do when the positions your clients take get entrenched and emotions rise? Clients can become suspicious, or just say “No”? When this happens negotiations can seem doomed. Here are three things you can do to help your clients get back on track.
First, don’t panic.
Nothing makes a situation worse for your client than to feel like things are out of control. If you, the expert, panic what are they supposed to do? Sound too easy? The fact is that in most situations a surprise doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. After all, the worst thing about an unexpected turn for the worse in negotiations is the fear of the unknown, and the quickest way to derail the sale is to react before you have full information. What does the other side want? What do they know, or not know, that is behind their reaction? Figure out what information you need about the other party, and get it. So don’t react if you don’t have to, except to gather more information.
Second, look for unmet interests, beginning with the other party.
The appearance of a surprise in negotiations may reflect some new piece of information of which the other party was not previously aware. They may feel their basic interests are threatened by this new information, or they may realize that something they didn’t previously consider now seems important to them. Never dismiss their demand as ridiculous, even if you feel that way at a gut level. That’s the quickest way to get them to stop listening. Instead, find some way to acknowledge the other party’s viewpoint, whether verbally or in writing. Notice, I didn’t say to agree with their demand. That’s different than their underlying interest. It gets to the “why?” of the first step. If you simply present a counteroffer without acknowledging that they have any legitimate interests, they are likely to see you as cold, and purely out for the money. That’s a pretty good way to get them to dig in their heels on their demand. What can you acknowledge without giving in to their demand? That the information might have seemed startling to them either in its’ content or the way it was delivered. That your client shares some of their underlying values in looking for a good home. Is it important for the well being of their children? Do they have a special reason for wanting to be in this location? Are they worried about being taken advantage of? Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge.
Third, ask your client what is really important to them, and why?
What do they really want, and what will it do for them? Your clients’ understanding of what matters to them may well have changed, especially if there is new information on the table. In addition, they will appreciate it if you acknowledge whatever fears they express and address them. Then, talk with them frankly about the underlying interests you see being expressed by both parties, and how that might affect further negotiations. Where do they seem to coincide and diverge? As your clients become clear about what they need, and as much as they can, about what is behind the other party’s position, you can talk about the next step more calmly.
When clients get entrenched in their positions and emotions get in the way of clinching the deal, don’t despair. Getting full information, looking for and acknowledging needs and interests behind the positions are ways to get the negotiations back on track.
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