How to Negotiate to Yes

By Susan Lassiter-Lyons | Real Estate

If you are going to be successful in the real estate investment business, you need to be many things: A sales person, a marketer, possibly a rocket scientist, but above all, you can bet your Purple Rain album that you need to be a good negotiator who can get people to say yes.


Prince was an awesome negotiator by the way. I’m going to miss him.

This is a four-part series about negotiating to yes.

First, we’ll hone in on the basic principles of negotiation, follow it up with strategies for buyers, then sellers, and finally a special on how to pin point and deal with liars and dirty tricks.

These are mega important aspects of my Getting the Deals program.

After you read all this cool free stuff, you should check out how I can seriously help take your real estate investment business to the big time with 65 WAYS TO GET REAL ESTATE LEADS.

But, for now…

The Waitress Game

I was raised by my grandmother until I was six years old.

Every day she would make me lunch.

Peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese were her staples, but if she was feeling fancy she would crack open a can of shrimp and make a shrimp salad.

Then, every day, she would take off her apron and set herself up with a TV tray and pop on a show.

This was when the fun began, and we would play – “Waitress.”

I would tie on her apron, grab a note pad and pencil and go sell my grandmother the lunch she just made for us.


She would shoot me down at least three times.

Every. Single. Day.

I learned to sell the finer points of a PB&J and the saltiness of a side order of potato chips served with a grilled cheese, but the shrimp salad was always my favorite to sell.

“This is a house specialty,” I would say in my five-year-old voice. “You can’t get a salad this tasty anywhere else.”

Even with the shrimp salad she would turn me down three or four times, and sometimes she’d play different characters to do so.

“I don't care for shrimp.”

“I like to save seafood for special occasions.”

“Don't you have any other specials?”

She would calmly refuse the sandwich while searching for her afternoon program on the television.


I didn’t have anything else. Shrimp salad was it.

“You should make today special and try the shrimp salad because who knows how long something this good will be available,” I would keep pressing until she would finally agree.


There were times the waitress game was a real pain, but I tell you what…

My grandma taught me how to negotiate to yes like a pro and it has served me well in this business because…

As a real estate investor, you don’t make your money when you sell property – you make it when you buy it.

Think about it.

If you don’t negotiate a good deal when you buy a residential property or commercial building, there is little chance you will make a profit on said property when you resell it.


Let’s make sure you can negotiate to the price you want to make the money you want.

Natural strategies don’t work.

Unless you study the art of negotiation, you are likely to naturally fall into one of two categories of negotiation strategies.

The Soft Negotiator or the Hard Negotiator

The soft negotiator (SN) wants to avoid conflict in order to make concessions and reach an agreement.

SN wants an amicable agreement above all else to maintain personal trust, remain friends, and cultivate relationships EVEN if the negotiation exploits the SN and leaves them feeling bitter and unhappy with the results.

The hard negotiator (HN) is in it to win it.

For the HN, every situation is a contest of wills where the one who takes the most extreme position and withholds the longest fares better.

The HN distrusts everything, and demands concessions EVEN if the strategy produces an equally harsh response that exhausts resources and energy and permanently damages the relationship with the other side.

Neither of these strategies work in real estate investment.

You will never make money as a soft negotiator and you will run out of people to deal with as a hard negotiator – and not make money…


Academic strategies do work.

Roger Fisher and William Ury studied negotiation and the they wrote the book on the subject.


“Getting to Yes,” was published in 1981, and it is still the essential book on negotiation that I recommend for your real estate investment career when it comes to mastering principled negotiation as an approach to conflict resolution.

If you don’t have it already, you can get it here.

While you wait on delivery, I’ll give you a rundown of the highlights and tell you how my students and I have incorporated the practices into our businesses.

Four Fundamental Principles of Negotiation

Often referred to as creating a “win-win” deal, Principled Negotiation can help you achieve your business objectives while satisfying the other party’s expectations by taking the all-or-nothing and bitter attitudes out of the picture.

This is where the rubber meets the road…

Separate People from the Problem

Don’t let emotion, communication, and perception cloud a deal.

While negotiating, you might be tempted to react with emotions, such as fear or anger, especially if one side feels they are at a disadvantage.

Communicate with transparency and listen more than you talk – think of each other as partners not adversaries.

It’s similar to our fight or flight response – don’t do it.

Focus On Interests Not Positions

Fisher and Ury suggest keeping discussions about common interests instead of focusing on your position on a subject.

If you want a seller to reduce their asking price, rather than focus on a specific number, discuss ways to reduce costs.

Perhaps the seller can reduce closing costs or chip in for repair costs. This will, inevitable, reduce the asking price.

Identify the interests of each party regarding the issue and ask them why they have a particular stance.

Discuss the interests and stay focused on a solution.

Invent Options for Mutual Gain

DO NOT judge ideas presented to you. Think of everything as brainstorming.

State the problem, analyze it, take general approaches, and consider specific actions.

Start with the most promising ideas.

Use Objective Criteria

When strong, direct opposition comes up from either side, develop criteria that might include legal precedents or industry statistics.

If both sides agree to the validity of the information, then it is objective.

For instance, you might be in closing cost negotiations with a seller who wants $4,000, but you want to pay $3,000.

If, according to industry standard, the average closing cost is $3,700, he might accept $3,500.

When the other party won’t play the game right

Even with these tried and true principles in practice, you are going to run into obstacles. Fisher and Ury have given me ideas on how to address this too…

  • When power is an issue, because it often is in this business, develop a best alternative to a negotiated agreement. An alternative to bottom-line thinking, if you will, so the person dealing with the power struggle can evaluate the worst possible outcome. (You walking away)
  • Turn down solutions that would be worse than your best alternative. Power in a negotiation comes from the ability to walk away if you’re not going to benefit from the deal.
  • Don’t respond to attacks, direct the problem. Dirty tricks can muddy negotiations. (More one this in the next three posts)

Sometimes it’s just a personality problem

During all of my years in this business I have run into a few recurring personality types that are handy to understand in order to use effective principled negotiation techniques.

I call these types the Director, Socializer, Supporter, and the Clinician.

Whether we like it or not, we all fall into one (maybe two) of these categories when making decisions, so they are good to understand and embrace.

It’s also good to have some ninja strategies to understand how to bring each of these personality types back around to Reasonville when they get a little lost in a power struggle.

So, here ya go…

The Director

This lady is the driver. She is decisive and determined and usually in a hurry – or acts like it anyway. There is a bit of an ego going on here and she wants you to know, or think, she is tough, stubborn and doesn’t want to spend much time with you. She’s not all that great at listening either.

Here is what you do.

First of all, don’t invade her personal space or insult her less than fuzzy personality. Give her space and ask specific questions while using facts and logic. Keep it all business, efficient and to the point.

The Socializer

Polar opposite to the Director, this expressive pal can be rather reactive and impulsive. He often makes spontaneous decisions (but tends to be feminine). He is flexible with a short attention span and has a bit of a dramatic flair mixed with the attention deficits of a child. Lots of enthusiasm and creativity here that can get lost in details.

Here is what you do.

Be friendly and personable, but be the guy who keeps the facts straight. Offer short relatable stories that convey your experiences. Keep summarizing the discussion when they get caught up in a creative detail to pin them down. Be prepared for an impulsive agreement to come on when you are discussing something like how awesome the kitchen layout is.

The Supporter

Further along the lines of the Socializer, is Ms. Amiable. She is very dependent on others, respectful, willing, and agreeable. Bad news, you’re probably not going to run into her much in real estate investing because she’s not too bit on taking risks and not all that goal oriented. She is more likely to be your kind hearted friend who will cheer you one. But, should you happen upon an unsuspecting investor with this personality.

Here is what you do.

Find out about their personal interests and her family. Work to seek common ground, especially if she has inherited a major business and might be a person you could have a long relationship with. (Her personality is likely to change if she stays in this business)

Offer low risk solutions, be patient, and reassuring.

The Clinician

This is the guy you are most likely to run into in real estate investing. This might even be you.

He is Mr. Analytical and he is precise, orderly, rational, and serious. He is motivated by facts, which is cool because you came with them, but he is slow to make decisions, so make sure he is the decision maker who is pulling the trigger before you engage with him.

He can be distrusting, especially if people are trying to persuade him, and he likes things to be detailed and in writing because he’s critical, skeptical, and security conscious.

I know a lot about this guy.

Here is what you do.

Demonstrate your willingness and helpfulness by taking action. Don’t pull up in a fancy sport can with a slick suit on and think this is going to win this guy over. Stick to specifics and do not go for hyperbole or impressive speech – Big turn off.

You might want to provide transparency up front by revealing a small flaw or defect about yourself to develop trust. Ask a ton of why questions so Mr. Analytical can’t focus on his excuses to not do the deal.

Those Are the Fundamentals My Grandma Taught Me


Thanks grandma.

Next week we’ll get into the nitty gritty of negotiating to yes when you are a buyer – remember, that’s how you’re going to make your money in this business.

Until then…

Have fun. Create value.

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(1) comment

Thanks. These are good tips, a good book to read and practice.

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