This post was originally published on inman.com
Article By Stephanie Xelowski | Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty
Luxury real estate agents are so much more than sales specialists. We’re teachers, coaches, advisors, and advocates for our clients. Negotiating sales on their behalf is no different—we need to bring all that sensitivity and tact to the table.
As a member of The Brett Dickinson Team with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, I’ve been able to hone my skills as a negotiator for my sellers. Here are some specific considerations to keep in mind when helping clients through the sale of their homes.
The process is personal
In my experience, sellers are more likely than buyers to be sentimental. Whether it’s a couple saying good-bye to their first home, or a brother and sister letting go of the house they grew up in, you have to understand and empathize with the emotions the clients are feeling. A home sale may also follow closely after a divorce or a death in the family, so it can be a stressful time.
In such cases, you become almost like a therapist—let your clients talk while you listen. This not only helps to build trust between you, but it serves the practical purpose of helping you assess their mindset and priorities so you can plan next steps.
Be an effective mediator
When negotiating on behalf of a seller, you may spend a lot of time acting as the messenger, facilitating communications back and forth between them and the buyer. This is a good thing. When sellers are in an emotional frame of mind, being their go-between gives you a chance to finesse issues and convey information in a calm, compassionate way.
If sellers are taking things too personally and it’s standing in the way of the deal, the best thing to do may be to bring them back to where they started from. Help them remember why they wanted to sell in the first place. In the Ninja Selling training system, which many real estate teams are familiar with, we talk about FORD: family, occupation, recreation, dreams. At least one of these factors is motivating your seller; help them focus on that so you can bring the deal back on track.
Timing is everything
When brokering a deal on behalf of a seller, time management takes on a whole new meaning. Not only do you need to be efficient, but you need to know the best moments for conversations with your seller. When buyers are making requests and patience is wearing thin, do they need to sleep on their decisions, or do they need a decisive push in the right direction? Agents have to know how to control timing—and how they do that differs depending on the seller.
Humor always helps
I can’t emphasize enough how effective humor can be when diffusing tension with a stressed or anxious client. For me, telling an engaging, personal story serves as a small distraction when my seller seems like they need a moment of levity—I have plenty of anecdotes about previous transactions or even my dog, for this exact purpose. It lets my clients relax and refocus when we can change the subject, even for a minute.
It’s for this reason that I love comedy shows and improv: I think agents could take a lesson from improv and stand-up comedy on how to think fast and connect with clients through humor and humility. When you’re willing to be funny and self-deprecating, coming from a place of honesty, it lowers everyone’s defenses and enables a much more productive negotiation.
Never stop learning
I feel so fortunate to have joined a team of seasoned real estate experts. Brett Dickinson, who leads our practice out of La Jolla, coached me when I was starting my career, explaining his sellers’ situations to me so we could role-play different negotiation strategies. I encourage every agent to find a colleague or mentor who can share their experience and help you view your deals from a new perspective. They say it takes a village to raise a child—and I’ve certainly found that it takes a team to train an agent.
You can also take steps to educate yourself. Our team has read and discussed several books, including Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz, Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and we recently enjoyed Daniel Pink’s MasterClass in sales and persuasion.
They say knowledge is power—but for me, knowledge is confidence. Being able to talk through my deals with my team has helped me be a better negotiator. Then, when I’m representing my sellers, I can truly secure the best possible deals for them while building trust and relationships that last.
Advanced negotiation on the buyer’s side of the deal comes with a different set of nuances and considerations. Discover them here.
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Stephanie graduated from Arizona State University. She has ten years of experience in the banking and mortgage loan industry where she worked for Bank of America as an Underwriter and then as an Assistant Vice President in MLO Services. Deciding to put her marketing degree to use, Stephanie moved to San Diego where she worked as a Product Manager and Marketing Coordinator. Combined with her love for real estate and years of expertise in marketing and mortgage loans, Stephanie has the energy and passion to ensure the homebuying process is an enjoyable one for all her clients.