Realtor Negotiation Mastery: How to Negotiate Like an FBI Hostage Negotiator

If you are in real estate, you need to get over your aversion to negotiation ASAP!  If not, you are probably in the wrong industry.

At least, that's what long-time CINC client Broker/Owner Jordana Tobel says.  She recently sat down with us to share how she and her team of 50+ agents at Premier Listings in South Florida use best practices from former chief FBI international hostage negotiator Chris Voss to close more real estate transactions.

According to Jordana, you don't need to like negotiation.  You just need to understand how it works.  Watch the video below to get the full overview.



Strategy #1:  Establish Credibility

  • In order to establish credibility, stop trying to show off.  No one cares about your resume (or lack thereof).  What they really care about is your ability to address their needs.
  • Chris Voss shares two stories highlighting the importance of establishing credibility:  
    • In the first one, he was called to a high-level hostage negotiation in the Philippines involving collaboration with key senior figures in the Filipino government.  He led off his first meeting with the government, listing off how great he was and all his accomplishments.  He immediately lost the room and major credibility with his collaborators due to his focus on trying to show off.
    • In the second story, Chris was called into a kidnapping negotiation involving as 12-year old boy in Haiti.   The boy's father immediately asked him how he was going to help while Chris was in D.C. so far away?  Chris responded back by saying "Haitian kidnappers don't kill people they kidnap.  People they kidnap are their commodity.  And it is Thursday.  I know that Haitian kidnappers love to party.  The kidnapper wants to party Saturday night.  If you do exactly what I say and when I say it,  you will have your son back no later than Friday evening or Saturday morning."  What did the father say to Chris?  "Tell me what you need me to do and when you need me to do it." By addressing the needs of the father instead of going off on how great Chris was, Chris came in and immediately established credibility (taking a totally different approach than the Philippines example).
  • Realtors (especially new ones) need to stop fretting about how best to highlight their accomplishments but rather focus on addressing needs and providing insights.  Here is an example of a sample talk track employing this strategy:  "If I put this on the market tonight, we'll have a buyer for you next week."
  • Credibility equals predictability. In Chris Voss' Haitian negotiation, he called the kidnapped son's father every hour (even if there were not updates) to establish predictability and trust.  Realtors can do the same by calling sellers every week even if they have nothing to tell them.  Just call them and say, "There have been no showings."
    FBI 1st Image

Strategy #2: Extract & Observe as Much Information as Possible

  • Listening is more important than speaking in a negotiation.  The more you learn, the bigger your advantage.
  • In Jordana's market in South Florida where inventory is incredibly low, sellers seem to hold all the power.  So Jordana's buyer agents are constantly complaining about how powerless they are in negotiation.  Jordana challenges them to practice the art of active listening.  It is important that they get dialogue going with seller agents and the longer they can keep the conversation going and make the seller agent comfortable at some point more will be revealed when the seller agent feels safe.
  • The pro tip here is to make someone feel respected and safe and they will talk.  Almost always, this will result in information that you can use to negotiate the deal.
    FBI 2nd Image


Strategy #3: Collaborate

  • Despite the glamorization and perception in movies of great negotiators having to be a jerk, the best negotiators do not have an "us vs. them" mentality.  In fact the best negotiators have a mentality of collaboration.
  • You need to always be thinking about how can you get the other team on your side.  When you get the other team on your side, you won't get worn out by negotiation because you are working together.
  • Chris Voss highlights how we perform a staggering 31% better when we are in a positive frame than in a negative frame.  That is why being rude and overly combative can be counterproductive in a negotiation.  It puts the other party in negative frame of mind which ultimately makes it more challenging for you to achieve your goals.
  • Below is one of Jordana's examples of a sample talk track to use to better collaborate with a difficult seller:
    FBI 3rd Image

Strategy #4:  Exercise Self-Control

  • The person listening, not the person talking, controls the negotiation.  Most people think it is the person talking.  Use this to your advantage.  The person talking is revealing information while the listener is directing the conversation.
  • Empathy is crucial.  It's paying attention to another human being, asking what they are feeling, and trying to understand their world.
  • If you took a listing at a high price and it's not selling, speak the truth:  "You feel I've failed you. You feel as a professional, I should have known better and done a better job.  I took a listing at a higher price and I let you down. I let you get blind sighted."  Next say: "what do you want to do now?"  That's when you'll find out if you can fix it.
  • Chris Voss talks about how you want to find E.LF. people to work with. E.L.F. meaning easy, lucrative, and fun.  You want to avoid hard and annoying people.
  • Rationality is in the eye of the beholder.  Don't expect rational behavior.  Instead expect patterns and prepare for those.  Empathy has nothing to do with reality, only point of view.  Instead of ignoring their POV, address it head on:  "You think I'm not representing you well.  You think I've let you down."
  • The most powerful tool in a negotiation is not data or how long you have been in real estate.  The key is your voice.  Use your voice to intentionally reach into someone's brain and flip and emotional switch.  Think...nervous to calm. Don't use an aggressive voice.  It makes the other person push back.  No one want to be controlled.
  • Use a positive and playful voice and show an easy-going good-natured personality.  Attitude should be light and encouraging.  Relax and smile while talking.  Smile even on the phone as this has an impact on the other person.
  • Being right is not the key to a successful negotiation.  It is all about right mindset and technique.
    FBI 4th Image


Additional Information from Jordana Tobel

  • If you like Jordana's training video, she has tons of other free online learning courses that you can access for free on her Premier Listings University site here.
  • Also, one of Jordana's key competitive advantages in her market is the lead generation and conversion tools that she provides her agents through CINC's platform.  RE Technology recently ran a story on her team's impressive 33% annual growth over the past few years by leveraging the CINC platform to provide each of her lead agents with 40 leads per month from the CINC platform (full story here). .You can see the site we run for her here. If you want to see how our team and the CINC platform can do something similar for you individually or for your whole team, get in touch with one of our specialist here.

This Blog Post was Written by Richard Kaiser

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