The Win-Win Approach to Negotiation

Negotiation is sometimes seen in terms of getting your own way, driving a hard bargain or ‘winning’ the deal. In the short term, bargaining like this may well achieve a result, it is also a Win-Lose approach.

Naturally, when one side wins the other loses and this outcome may well damage future relationships between the parties. In estate agency particularly, it also increases the likelihood of relationships breaking down, of people walking out or refusing to deal with the ‘winners’ again and the process ending in a lose-lose scenario.

Win-lose bargaining (this is what it is, rather than a true negotiation) is common in many estate agency deals.

Buyers and sellers decide what they want, then each side takes up an extreme position, such as asking the other side for much more than they expect to get.

Through haggling – usually only around price – a compromise is reached, and each side hopes that this compromise will leave them the ‘winner’.

There’s a better way.

More and more estate agents prefer to work towards a win-win negotiation.

This involves looking for resolutions that allow both sides to feel comfortable and confident about their decisions.

In other words, agents (and their clients by proxy) aim to work together towards finding a solution that results in both sides being happy and satisfied.

Key points when aiming for a win-win outcome include:

  • Focus on maintaining the relationship - ‘separate the people from the problem’.
  • Focus on interests not positions - both sides want to move.
  • Generate a variety of options to both parties before deciding what to do.
  • Aim for the result to be based on the overall shared position.

Focus on maintaining the relationship

This means you’re aiming to confront the problem, not the people. 

This can involve actively supporting the other individuals while confronting the problem.

Disagreements and negotiations are rarely ‘one-offs’.  

At times of disagreement, it is important to remember that you may well have to communicate with the same people in the future.  For this reason, it is always worth considering whether ‘winning’ the particular issue is more important than maintaining a good relationship.

Remember negotiation is about finding an agreeable solution to a problem, not an excuse to undermine others, therefore, to avoid negotiation breaking down into argument, it is helpful to consciously separate the issues under dispute from the people involved.

The following are examples of statements that might be used by a great negotiator:

“You’ve expressed your points very clearly and I can now appreciate your position.  However...”

“It’s clear that you are very concerned about (the issue), I completely understand. Yet in my experience...”

Focus on interests not positions

Rather than focusing on the other side’s stated position, consider the underlying interests they might have.  What are their needs and wants (and fears)? These might not always be obvious from what they say. 

When negotiating, individuals often appear to be holding on to one or two points from which they will not move. Price is often where a lot of deals fall down in agency. By focusing on the interest of both parties, you’re able to help them move on from a number and consider the impact of proceeding/not proceeding has on their lives.

Generate a variety of options to both sides

Rather than looking for one single way to do the deal (price), it is worthwhile considering a number of options that could provide a resolution and then to work together to decide which is most suitable for both sides. 

Negotiation is a problem solving exercise. It is important to focus on all individuals’ underlying interests and not merely the basic difference in positions.

Good negotiators will spend time finding a number of ways of meeting the interests of both sides.

Aim for the result to be based on the overall shared position.

In some ways, estate agents have it easier than a lot of negotiators in that when you’re in the midst of a negotiation, 99% of the time you have two parties who actually want to work together to achieve the same goal - moving.

Yes, there’s going to be give and take.

Yes, at times one party or the other may need time to consider whether they’re willing to accept a compromise.

Yes, there will be extended periods of uncomfortable silence.

But that’s negotiating.

Follow the process, consider each parties underlying motivations, keep the focus on solving the shared problems and give more than one solution and you’ll end up with a win-win-win (the third winner is you as the agent) negotiation.