How to Negotiate Without Focusing Only on the Outcome

This man and woman are in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan.  The building on the left is the Royal Park Shiodome Tower; the building o
This man and woman are in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan. The building on the left is the Royal Park Shiodome Tower; the building on the right is the Nittele Tower, Oct 2004.

When I asked a group of more than 100 commission-based sales associates who they think has the ultimate power in any negotiation, the response was universal: the person most willing to walk away from the talks.

Great. But when dealing with real estate professionals that don't get paid unless the deal closes, is it ever possible for this type of negotiator to be truly powerful?

Most commission-based salespeople focus their attention on the outcome: "I need to get this listing" or "I need to get them to sign the offer." As you can imagine, going into negotiations this tight and tense surely isn't often enjoyable.

A salesperson has bills to pay, needs of her own and, therefore, is clearly and understandably attached to the outcome of the sale. No way she can be willing to just walk away.

But what if you went into a negotiation with less of an "I need" attitude and instead shifted it to "How can I be of service?" This mental shift can help let go of the outcome so that you can be better aligned to focus on the moment at hand. From there, you would actually position yourself to achieve a more positive outcome that could be achieved as an organic result.

Sounds good, right? Yeah, but I still need to get the deal.

And that's true. Although, which do you prefer for yourself: being "sold" something, or being "served" something? When we walk into any situation from a place of service, we create more ease, more trust, and a safer space to really get down to the matter at hand, so that strategies can be created to achieve the true need. From there, your negotiating strength is far better defined.

This is definitely a shift in philosophy amongst sales professionals who have been ingrained with the "win with attachment to outcomes" mentality. Instead, why not consider yourself a "professional looking to be of service"?

Rarely is it the case that one person walks into a negotiation with the ultimate power of being willing to walk away. Two sides negotiate because both need something of the other, whether they want to admit it or not. Why else would they be there?

That's why when we approach discussions from a place of service, we stand a better and more powerful chance of creating an environment where everyone may feel more candid and amenable to create an agreeable outcome. Furthermore, this empowering focus allows us to more accurately assess the situation at hand and see if everyone at the table is even realistic in their individual objectives. Time and energy are valuable commodities and I don't like to waste them on unrealistic negotiators.

So, consider the next time you walk into a negotiation, start by simply asking the question, "What can I do for you?" See how the person on the other side of the table responses. If nothing else, you'll be more relaxed and present in the situation and poised to put your best foot forward.

Likely you'll still need a positive outcome; such is the business. However, this shift of focus and consciousness may make it easier -- and more enjoyable -- to achieve it.