It’s not always possible to negotiate face to face, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a leg up on the competition. Christy Murdock offers best practices so you can optimize your virtual negotiation skills and give your clients the best possible chance at success.

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This article was last updated Oct. 10, 2023.

I recently wrote about non-verbal cues and how they can undermine a negotiation process. The first comment on the story pointed out what we have clearly seen during the past couple of years — much of the negotiation process now takes place online through emails, texts or phone calls rather than with two agents sitting across from each other and hashing out details.

Although face-to-face conversations and negotiations are undoubtedly powerful, they’re not always possible, especially in multiple-offer markets, with relocating buyers and limited inventory.

According to a 2020 Harvard Business Review survey of virtual communication strategies, most of us are less effective and less cooperative when negotiating through email or text. Face-to-face negotiations tend to help us look for solutions and develop mutual trust in a way that online communications just can’t match.

How can you develop an effective negotiation strategy that works even though you may never see the agent on the “other side of the table”?

Implement virtual face-to-face communication, when possible

Don’t rely exclusively on email to get your point across. Seek out opportunities for a quick FaceTime or Zoom, or accompany your offer with a video message. Take a tip from the Harvard team: Block or turn off your self-view monitor because it tends to make you more self-conscious and awkward during video conferences. 

Make sure everyone on your team is on the same page

If you’re working with other agents or support staff to get the deal done, don’t let them undermine your negotiating position by communicating too much or providing wrong information. Assign a point person to the negotiation and, as much as possible, steer all communication through that conduit for more consistency and effectiveness.

Make sure your communication is on point

You don’t want your written communication to have typos or incorrect information. You want the cover letter to be effective and accurate. You want to ensure that the phone call you follow up with includes accurate information, as well. When you’re negotiating through email, text or phone, double-check everything so that you look every bit as competent as you would in person.

Don’t let a tech glitch undermine your position

You need a good connection and a solid working knowledge of the technology you use so that you can communicate effectively when negotiating virtually. 

  • Unreliable Wi-Fi? Install a wired connection at your desk, and make sure you know how to run everything off of your phone’s hotspot in case your service goes down. 
  • Unreliable internet connection? If you experience frequent service disruptions or your internet is not powerful enough, check with your internet provider to find out if you can boost your coverage or have someone come to your location to troubleshoot. You may want to install a separate wired connection just for work so that the family’s devices don’t interfere with your bandwidth.
  • Negotiating on the go? Understand the mobile version of your transaction management software so that you can create and share offers and supporting documents on the fly.
  • Completely overwhelmed? Consider whether you need to outsource some of your workload to a virtual assistant or transaction manager. They may be able to put together materials more effectively in less time.

Make the phone your friend and follow up

Take a moment and follow up on that email with a phone call to confirm receipt or follow up after a showing with a quick call to offer your appreciation. Don’t take up the listing agent’s time, but use that minute or two to make a human connection and infuse some warmth into the process. 

Lost out on an offer? Make a quick call to thank the agent for their time and consideration and let them know what your buyers are looking for — they may know of something coming up that would be just right.

Had to take someone else’s offer as a listing agent? Re-open the lines of communication and connect with that buyer’s agent to see if an upcoming or off-market listing would be a fit for them.

Christy Murdock is a freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. Connect with Writing Real Estate on Instagram and subscribe to the weekly roundup, The Ketchup.

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