(This is Part 6 of a six-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.)

If you’re attempting to use manipulation or other outdated closing techniques from the last century, it’s time to recognize that today’s consumers need a different approach to negotiating that puts them in charge of the decision-making process.

Last week’s column discussed how to identify body language that indicates whether a client is lying, feeling tense or becoming hostile — behavior that is primarily the result of broken trust. Clients fear that they’re just a number, that you are more interested in your agenda than theirs, or that you may try to manipulate them. Thus, the old phrase “buyers are liars” is usually false. Instead, negotiation challenges almost always result because the agent has tried to move the process forward too quickly or has violated the client’s trust in some way.

Be a Conduit of Information

Over the years, I’ve watched thousands of agents struggle with scripts that did not fit their personalities; hard closes that made them feel sleazy; or aggressive tactics that turned off their clients. When it comes to closing, a better option is to be a conduit of information. Your role is to provide your clients with as much information as possible so that they can make the best possible decision. Being a conduit of information removes you from having to pressure the clients in any way. When your clients feel in control, most objections disappear.

It’s Their House and It’s Their Decision

The most important phrase that you can add to your closing vocabulary is, “It’s your choice, what would you like to do?” Outline the options available to your client; ask if there are any options that you have missed; and then turn it over to them for the decision. Remember, it’s their house and their decision. This simple approach reduces the stress of negotiation dramatically. Your clients perceive that you are on their side and are doing your best to help them achieve their goals.

Overcome Objections by Asking Questions

Buyers’ objections are almost always buying signs. They normally do not raise objections unless they see themselves living in the property. One of the best strategies to overcome objections is to ask a question. For example, when the buyer objects to the seller’s choice of carpet, you could respond by asking, “Would you prefer to replace the carpet or would you refinish the hardwood floors?” This is a classic “alternative choice close” where you are asking the buyers to picture themselves living in the property. No matter how they answer the question, they see themselves living in the property. As a rule of thumb, the more questions you ask and the fewer statements that you make, the more likely you are to close your clients.

Answer Questions with Questions

Another important strategy is to answer questions with a question whenever possible. When a buyer says, “How much do you think the seller will take?” One question to ask is, “Would you like to write an offer to find out?” When a seller wants to know how much their property is worth, review the comparable sales and then say, “Where would you like to position your property in the marketplace?”

Be Congruent

One of the key concerns that many agents have is how to build client trust. Trust begins with being congruent. This means that you do what you say you are going to do. It also means the words you say, the way you say them, and the way you move your body also all match. When you speak with your clients, do your best to match their rate of speech, volume and pace. Keep your body still. Nervous movements on your part will make them nervous. Being congruent also means that you match their level of eye contact. Watch their body language to see if they are feeling uncomfortable. If so, slow down your pace and step or lean back from them. You want them to feel that this is their decision — not something they were forced to do.

Is that a Strategy that Works for You?

When competing against other agents for a listing, outline your marketing plan and then ask, “Do you believe that I can get your house sold?” If the seller says, “We’re interviewing other agents,” respond by saying, “Great. Please compare our premium marketing plan with those provided by the other agents and then decide which agent can help you obtain the highest possible price for your property in the shortest amount of time. Is that a strategy that works for you?”

What makes this approach powerful is that you have set the expectation that the other agents will bring their marketing plans to their meeting with the sellers. When your competitors show up without a marketing plan, you’ll get the listing virtually every time.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Ultimately, the large majority of clients end up doing business with the first agent they contact. Your negotiation skills are of little use if you’re not generating leads. Thus, the most important negotiation skill you can acquire is simply to take every possible step to be the first one who contacts the client. If you immediately respond to every lead you generate, you will have plenty of opportunities to exercise your excellent negotiation skills.

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 bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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