Masterful negotiation results from being able to correctly read between the lines of what your clients are saying. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to acquire an understanding of your clients’ body language.
While it’s easy to recognize when a negotiation is proceeding well, most agents are poor at understanding why a negotiation goes awry. Effective negotiators recognize when they need to slow down or speed up the negotiation process. They know how to relieve the client’s anxiety and what to say to calm difficult situations. Rather than relying on verbal cues, however, the primary way they gauge what is happening is by watching their client’s body language.
If you focus exclusively on closing the client, you may overlook the nonverbal messages that your clients are constantly sending. For the most part, these are unconscious and hence, unmonitored. In fact, what the client says may be the exact opposite of his or her body language. When there is a contradiction, body language trumps the spoken word. The reason for this is that words carry about 10 percent of our communication. The bulk of our communication comes from our tone of voice, our pace, as well as how and where we position our bodies.
Emotion or Logic: Which One Should I Use?
A primary reason for doing face-to-face negotiation is to read the clients’ body language. An easy place to start is to note whether your clients are relying on emotion or logic in their decision-making process. Careful listening will tell you whether your clients are making an emotional buy or if they are buying for a logical reason such as reducing their taxes.
People who buy based upon logic will make emotional objections. They become scared; they find fault with some part of the property that is not perfect; or they may become angry over something that is inconsequential. On the other hand, when buyers purchase based upon emotion, they normally have logical objections. Has the market bottomed yet? Are interest rates going to drop more? Can I really afford this much house? If your clients make an emotional objection, counter with logical data such as interest rates, convenience, space needs, etc. If your clients make a logical objection, counter with the emotional benefits of owning the property.
You can also recognize the types of objection they will make based upon whether the client is leaning forward or leaning back. When your clients lean toward you, they are agreeing with you emotionally. This is the time to highlight the emotional benefits of owning the property. When they lean back, give them logical data
The Eyes Have It
Watching your client’s eye movements can reveal a great deal about what is happening during the negotiation. To determine whether your clients are accessing a memory or perhaps telling you a lie, watch their eyes. Begin by asking your clients to describe something about their current residence that you can verify. Watch whether their eyes go right or left. The side they use to recall something about their home is the side they use when they are recalling memory. When their eyes go in the opposite direction, there’s a high probability that they are being “creative” or not telling the truth.
Your eyes hold other clues as well. When a person nods and his or her eyes become wider, your message is being well-received. If they glare and/or narrow their eyes, it’s time to change tactics. If they raise one eyebrow, they don’t believe you.
Watch Their Toes
Another simple way to tell whether your clients are with you or withdrawing from you is to look at where they position their feet, especially if their legs are crossed. If the toe of the leg that is crossed is pointing towards you, the person is with you emotionally. If the toe is pointing away, especially if it’s pointing at the door, they may be ready to run from you. In fact, the first time I heard about this approach, I was watching the final episode of “The Bachelor.” The bachelor was seated between the two finalists. When it came time to hand out the final rose, this approach correctly predicted his choice. While he was sitting between the two women, his toe pointed to the woman he eventually selected.
Negotiations can be stressful for all involved. If your clients are leaning from side to side, they are probably bored or disagreeing with what you are saying. Laughing at an inopportune moment, fidgeting, playing with one’s hair, tapping a pencil or pen, or wringing hands all indicate tension. So does a red flush, bulging veins or a tense posture.
Besides the eyes, here are some other important signals that indicate your clients may be feeling hostile. First, if they place their hand in front of their mouth or nose, they may be lying to you. Crossed arms, hands on the hips, hands behind the neck, tapping fingers on the table, or a hands-down handshake indicate resistance or superiority. Clients who lean forward with both the legs and arms crossed are in a protective stance. Finger pointing or abruptly adjusting their clothing also indicates hostility.
The challenge is once you recognize what is happening with their body language, what do you do? See next week’s column to learn more.
Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.