The Power of Reverse Psychology

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

Reverse psychology works. I know it does.

I'm no expert (well, maybe I am, after all, I have a minor in Psychology from Southwest Missouri State University, are you impressed?), but as a student of life, I've seen it happen time and again. Specifically in two important arenas of my life... Love... and Real Estate.

This being a real estate forum, I guess I'll stick to the topic of The Power of Reverse Psychology in your real estate business. If you wanna chat about love, I'll meet you on a different forum with a glass of wine and a pint of ice cream.

Inquiring agents want to know... "What's the best way to convince a FSBO to hire an agent (preferably me)?" or "How do I persuade a prospect that I'm the best man/woman/child for the job?" Most of the advice provided involves beating clients and prospects over the head with a long list of "reasons" they "should" listen to you.

But think about it. When a sales-type comes at you with his practiced pitch full of "features & benefits", don't you tend to shift into defense mode, mentally arguing with him, point by point? After all, there's no way this salesperson is smarter or more informed than you are, so why is he standing right there telling you he is?

Brian Sullivan of Precise Selling calls this behavior "Contrarian." He defines "Contrarian" as "somebody disposed to taking an opposite position: somebody who is prone to opposing policies, opinions or accepted wisdom." The reason for contrarianism is that we (human-types) love our OWN opinions far more than we love anyone else's opinion. In order to connect with your contrarian customer or prospect, you need to let him make the statements of opinion (er, sorry, fact).

But enough pseudo-sales training from me; I KNOW I'm no expert there. Here are some examples of reverse psychology in action from the world of real estate:

When competing for a listing... You say:
"Frankly, any competent real estate agent can sell a home that's well priced and well presented, there's nothing all that special about me or my company. When choosing an agent, just go with your gut feeling - who you feel the most comfortable with and who seems to care the most getting your home sold.

When prospecting to a FSBO... You say:
"The market is strong right now, so I'm sure you'll be able to sell your home on your own. It's not rocket science, after all. But if you have any questions during the process, feel free to give me a call."

When working with a new buyer... You say:
"I have all the time in the world to help you to find the perfect home. I want you to be thrilled with the home you purchase and I'll be here for you no matter how long it takes."

When discussing market value with a seller... You say:
"If another agent thinks they can get you that price, I say, hire him! He may know something I don't about selling real estate in this market. I certainly don't want you to feel that you hired the wrong man for the job."


"I'll tell you what. If you need that price to make selling worthwhile, let's wait a few months. Maybe the market will improve. I'll be happy to keep you updated on the neighborhood activity and when it reaches that level, we'll hit the market right away!"

When you acknowledge the intelligence and competence of another human being, she will automatically think you're just a little bit smarter than she initially suspected. But lo and behold... she's still a Contrarian, so you may find that she begins to argue with you anyway! And that's what you want!

For example:"I have all the time in the world to help you find you a home..."
Your Buyer's Response: "Oh, no, I want to find a home as quickly as possible!" (She said it, you didn't. It now becomes HER goal)


"If you need that price to make selling worthwhile, let's wait a few months..."
Your seller prospect's response: "Oh, no, I need to sell right away! How can I do that?" (Now, suddenly, you're the expert. In HIS opinion.)

It might be different if we were doctors or attorneys or such - after all (lawyer jokes aside), the general public has a great deal of respect for these professions. But let's face it. We're real estate agents. We're perceived just slightly above car salespeople. We're paid on commission. We are not, as a general rule, the most believable group of people on the planet.

Go ahead, argue with me... after all, it's human nature!

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

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Comments (13)

Christina Ethridge
The North Idaho Dream Team powered by SKE Realty Group - Coeur d'Alene, ID
Thanks for the reverse psychology reminder.  It seems pretty intuitive, but apparently it's not!
Mar 25, 2007 03:34 AM
Christopher Smith
TREGO REALTY - Cedar Rapids, IA
Great post Jennifer, especially about the FSBO comments, love it.  Also like your website, very cool!
Mar 25, 2007 05:03 AM
Kelly McDonald
Lagrange, KY
Thanks for posting this Jennifer!  I try to do this when I'm working with clients, but sometimes it's hard to remember. 
Mar 25, 2007 02:15 PM
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Kelly & Christina - Isn't it funny? We suspect that soft-selling/reverse psychology is a better approach, but when we REALLY want something, we revert back to the pushy, controlling salesperson and try to force our opinions on the other person.

Chris - Thanks for the compliment! I love bright colors...


Mar 25, 2007 10:49 PM
Michael Delp
Mortgage Pro - Telford, PA
Thanks for the reminder that the response you get is a reflection of the comments we make.
Mar 26, 2007 04:46 AM
Heather Armstrong
Skogman Realty - Cedar Rapids, IA

AMEN!  It's always important that they feel they had a choice and the decision made was their own!  That's why people don't like to be pressured, it makes them feel out of control!

Hope the sun is shining in Alabama (for Jennifer) and wherever the rest of you are located!  I LOVE Spring...

Best wishes to all.....

Mar 26, 2007 09:10 AM
Tom Sinclair
About the House - Home Inspections - Fairhope, AL
Jennifer, You are way too cool for Alabama!
Mar 26, 2007 04:03 PM
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul
Oooooh... I love Alabama! America's secret little piece of paradise!
Mar 26, 2007 08:04 PM
Aziz Abdur-Raoof
RE/MAX Rewards - Columbia, MD
Howard Co. Real Estate Scoop
good post -- I enjoyed reading it and will bookmark it to remember to use it.
Mar 27, 2007 03:47 PM
Linda Jandura
Raleigh Cary Realty - Apex, NC
Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist

Jennifer- I love this! Mostly because I hate "arguing" and (the famous) "handling objections!".  Unfortunately I've told people they should wait a few months to sell, and then they do!  In a "few months" I'll have a ton of listings to sell! lol

Apr 21, 2009 02:59 PM
Rajeev Narula
iPRO REALTY LTD.,Brokerage - Mississauga, ON
My Services Are All About You!

What a wonderful timely post. I have registered for your seminar tomorrow as well.

Keep it up.....and i am going to subscribe to your blog.

Apr 21, 2009 03:15 PM
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Rajeev - See you tonight!

Linda - The cool thing about using Reverse Psychology is that it's almost always in the client's best interest. So you did the right thing, promise!



Apr 22, 2009 12:17 AM
Robin Rogers
Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas - San Antonio, TX
CRS, TRC, MRP - Real Estate Investment Adviser

I love using reverse psychology, but it doesn't come naturally to me. I'm a high-D person! Great post.



Aug 25, 2009 12:09 PM