Life is a negotiation. Whether it is with our partner, our children, our extended families, or our co-workers, we are engaged in the give and take of negotiation every day. But the degree to which our personalities and engagement styles inform HOW we negotiate is something we rarely consider. Take me, for example. I have a big personality and a lot of opinions, but at heart I am much more bark than bite. I want everyone to be happy. I want consensus. So I have to be on guard all the time in my business life lest this desire to make people happy compel me to give away too much too soon.
Over the years I have both observed and participated in thousands of sales and rental negotiations. Here are a few things that I have learned about how personality shapes negotiation:
* You must figure out your own style and learn both how to use it and how to control it. For me, that has meant harnessing my enthusiasm in order to generate excitement and good will while at the same time knowing that much of the time I just need to shut up.
* In the same way, you have to be aware of the negotiating style of your customer or client (or broker, or partner, or boss, or mother). The CEO, who is always in a hurry and views every decision from 30,000 feet, needs accurate facts and an overview NOW. He will make a quick decision if you are on hand with what he needs. The CFO, on the other hand, may need to come back and measure everything a few times and will be extremely deliberate. He probably will NOT make a quick decision. And the scorched earth negotiator needs to be met, calmly, with the countervailing facts.
* Silence is golden. Biting your tongue will both stop you from giving too much away and at the same time create an environment in which your counterpart, for the same reason, may be tempted to over-speak. One cardinal rule of negotiation is that less is more when it comes to talking.
* If your clients or customers are a couple, watch THEIR interaction carefully. It will be up to you to understand how they make decisions, and it is rarely as straightforward as it appears at first. The talky one with the big opinions (in my marriage, ME!) is not necessarily the one whose desires will carry the day. Once again, silence is golden. If you stay quiet and observe, you can develop a perception of their negotiating style as a couple which will help you sort their priorities and make the right deal.
* It is NEVER strategic to lose your cool. Your frustration is your problem. Buyers and sellers can easily become emotionally involved in the transaction, so as agents it is our job not to let those emotions hijack the interaction. The best decisions are always made by cool heads. Maintaining a friendly professional demeanor will create good will no matter what your part in the deal. Having a tantrum will do the opposite. It is always your choice.
Managing a negotiation never involves just the price, the closing date, the terms. Managing a negotiation involves addressing all the subtle ways in which each participant either helps or hinders the issues and personalities to coalesce into a successful transaction. And the more conscious we all are of the psychological and stylistic issues which shape our responses, the more effective we are likely to be.