Understanding Negotiations Part 3: Email Delivery
If one has been a real estate agent for more than ten years, he may recall the days when most offers were presented to the Seller and listing agent by the selling agent, in person. At least it was that way in the Northwest since I started back in 1985. But now, with the ability to transfer documents online, by email, with twitter, or in the cloud, many sellers, listing agents and often, even buyer’s agents, have elected the “no personal contact” style for negotiating offers. Although this is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing, it is a change in the way we do things and, in order to stay current, we should know the subtleties of each.
Back between 2002 and 2007, when multiple offers were the rule of the day, selling agents would line up with letters to the seller from the would-be buyer telling all about their children, their pets, their hopes and their dreams. Eventually it seemed to reach an overload point and listing agents and sellers asked that the offers just be faxed, and eventually emailed. Now that method is almost universal.
Understanding this detached, or asynchronous, process is important for agents to grasp in order to succeed. In face to face meetings, those in the discussion have the opportunity to gage each other with consideration of body language, eye contact and voice inflection. But with email delivery of a contract, all that can be relied on are the factual details in the contract, unless the presenter learns and practices the various methods to enhance such presentations.
Face to face presentation allows for parallel processing of terms where ideas are offered, discussed and decided while everyone is present. In contrast, in an email exchange, principals receive one set of terms, and usually have time to consider and discuss on their own, and then respond, allowing time for the other party the same courtesy. In one instance there is time and opportunity to ask questions of clarification, while in the other, the printed word is taken at face value.
Some things to consider in Internet based negotiation:
- It is easy to misjudge the opposition and apply to them characteristics they do not have as a reaction to terms they have presented. The concept of manners and socially acceptable behavior are harder to gauge when the negotiators do not physically meet.
- In email exchanges, more diverse information may be presented, but it is difficult to gauge the relative importance of the various ideas put forth.
- It is difficult in email exchanges to determine which person, which personality, is dominating the discussion.
- In email negotiating there may be less cooperation to seek out solutions than there is in face to face meetings.
- In the hope of not missing any salient points, a party to the negotiation may dilute, in an email, the most important issues of the contract.
- The issue of trust. Is an email negotiator more likely to lie than when negotiating in person because of the separation of the principals, or less likely, because what is written is retrievable?
There are certain abilities required to be a successful email negotiator.
- Writing skills come to mind. One must be able to clearly state their desired position. Spelling, and grammar do count as an indication of the likelihood that the negotiator has the ability to follow through.
- One must be patient, and have the ability to wait for an answer. Because the negotiations are not face to face, waiting for a response takes some discipline and self-control.
- To respond too quickly can also be a mistake, for the other party may think that you have not give due consideration to the proposal.
- Building rapport in face to face meetings has a more natural process that we have learned over time. With texting and especially twitter (140 characters per message) electronic presentation of ideas may not include the “shaking of hands, how is it going” stage that sets the tone for a negotiation. Be careful not to forget that rapport is important.
- Demonstrating in responses that you understand the other position validates that position and the other person. Call it E-empathy. Learn it. Practice it.
One day, I expect that some negotiations will be carried out “in the cloud” with principals and agents gathered around the virtual table discussing various terms and conditions. I expect that there will be a mute or privacy button which allows seller and agent or buyer and agent to discuss items privately.
Wherever it goes, a continuous studying of negotiating, reading about negotiating, and practicing negotiating will serve the realtor well throughout his career.