The best negotiation skills training for real estate agents starts with their ability to thoroughly uncover the needs and motivation of the other person. Use this tested process to negotiate like a professional.

Negotiation skills training is absolutely essential for real estate agents. And although this need hasn’t changed since the advent of the Realtor, the negotiation tactics themselves have changed. In today’s training, I’ll dive into three main topics:

  1. How Realtors can use negotiation skills training
  2. Framing, tactical empathy, and labeling emotions as tools
  3. How to use a Needs Analysis as part of a successful negotiation

Also, you can access a FREE DOWNLOAD of the “Feelings Wheel” — a highly effective tool that I’ll discuss in greater detail. Keep reading!

VIDEO: Negotiation Skills Training for Realtors

Negotiation skills training is essential

There have been many changes in negotiation training and techniques in the past 30 years. I’ve watched the bulk of the change happen during the past few decades of my career. That change started from a place where we looked at negotiation as adversarial. The goal was to keep emotions out of it, and to determine why the other person wants what they want, and to make everyone think more rationally and less emotionally.

This method goes against a lot of natural human instincts. A lot of the old negotiation skills training has since been adapted to a more emotion-based methodology

When do Realtors negotiate?

Negotiation applies to any time you’re persuading. Realtors negotiate with

  • other agents during a transaction.
  • vendors they work with during a transaction. For example, a home inspector may want you to let them into a house to do an inspection at 10am. (No way – our mornings aren’t free!)
  • clients (buyers and sellers). You need your clients to trust you and your expertise, or they will lose out.

Tapping into emotion

The first thing you need to understand in negotiation skills training is that the key to successful motivation is tapping into emotion.


The way a person sees something (the way they frame it) can shape their emotion. It’s all about perspective.

If I gave you a piece of art that depicted a woman holding a small child alone on the beach, depending on your life experience, your perspective and your interpretation of that art will be different.

Three ways to view the same piece of art

  1. If you are a woman that is going through a messy divorce and is fighting for custody of your child, this piece of art may make you sad. It may remind you of the loss of your partnership with your husband, and the struggle that you are now facing in being a single mother. 
  2. If you are a person that was raised by a single parent, you may look at this piece of art and feel a great sense of pride. It may remind you of how your mother overcame adversity and raised you with love and support, despite the struggle. You may feel empowered by the art, and it may invoke positive feelings.
  3. If you are a 16-year-old girl, you may see the same piece of art and feel a sense of fear – fear of being a young mother. This fear may might cause her to want to avoid being a young mother, and all the struggles that come along with it.

The same piece of art can invoke completely different emotions in different people based on their life experiences. Sadness, pride, and fear can all stem from the same image. During your negotiation skills training, you need to remember this important fact.

Emotional intelligence

You must understand emotions and know how they work. You must know the emotional side of the other person in a negotiation scenario because really, you are working with them to satisfy their emotional needs. The goal is to work out an amicable resolution that fits their needs. 

You must understand where the other person is with their emotions. If you can understand where they are emotionally and where they are coming from, it changes everything.

Tactical empathy

In negotiation skills training, you must seek first to understand. Get into conversations to learn. You don’t win the negotiation by spilling all of the reasons why you need to meet your end goal. You must learn about the other person and learn their emotional motivation. And when you do, you listen.

You ask questions, listen, and take time to learn. Then, you frame your point around a certain amount of empathy that you have for their emotions. That empathy that you have for his emotions is referred to as “tactical empathy” by FBI negotiators. Chris Voss discusses the concept of tactical empathy at length in his book, Never Split the Difference.

When FBI negotiators use tactical empathy, they are working with criminals and terrorists and finding ways to tap into their emotions for a better negotiation result. Why are they angry? Why are they upset? What is their motivation? These questions help FBI agents strategize a win-win solution to satisfy the criminal’s emotion and get everyone safely out of a bad situation.

Emotional intelligence is crucial to having tactical empathy

As a real estate agent, you are responsible for defending your clients’ best interests. This is one of the primary reasons you need negotiation skills training. This is your responsibility as a real estate professional. What better way to know your clients’ best interests than to tap into their emotions and figure out why they want certain outcomes? 

If you know your clients on a deeper level, you can represent them in the best way possible.

The same concept applies to everyone Realtors deal with on a daily basis – lenders, appraisers, title officers, inspectors, home builders, other agents, etc.


This is another concept that Chris Voss talks about in his book, Never Split the Difference. You can categorize the emotion and say it back to the other person to demonstrate that you are being empathetic. You can’t simply tell someone, “I understand,” because the other person may feel defensive. It may sound condescending of you. They may think, “How can you possibly understand? You haven’t lived my life. You don’t know me.” Instead, you must find a way to validate their feelings.

  • Be humble
  • Reiterate their feelings
  • Ask questions
  • Come from curiosity

Validate by suggesting and asking questions back. “Is this how you feel?” 

negotiation skills training

Feelings Wheel: a helpful negotiation skills training tool

This graphic shows different feelings across the spectrum. It is helpful in identifying core emotions and pinpointing more specific feelings. For example, if someone is feeling “anger,” the chart breaks “anger” into more specific feelings like “enraged,” “exasperated,” “irritable,” “jealous,” and “disgusted.” So, if “irritable” seems to be more accurate within that angry feeling, you can break it down further and identify if the irritation is more “annoyed” or “aggravated.” As you move out from the center of the wheel, the feeling can be better identified.

How to use the Feelings Wheel in your negotiation skills training

  1. Listen to determine the core emotion. (For example, sadness.)
  2. “That sounds pretty rough. It sounds like you are feeling pretty dismayed right now?”
  3. If the other person says, “Yes, exactly,” that will calm both of you down. They are recognizing your empathy for them. 
  4. Now, you have validated that you “get it.” 
  5. Once this happens, the other person doesn’t need to keep displaying this emotion to you, because you have recognized it and acknowledged it. You “understand” it.
  6. Now, the other person can start thinking more logically and calmly, since you have recognized their emotion and they feel you “understand.” 
  7. You have neutralized the situation.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Feelings Wheel

Today, we are giving you a free download of The Feelings Wheel. As you continue your negotiation skills training, use this wheel to understand core emotions, as well as the more specific emotions that stem from those core emotions. Remember that getting more specific is better in terms of building trust with the other party.

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Quick reminders

  • Always ask questions; never assume
  • Come from curiosity and be genuine
  • Lead the other person to help them self-discover the answers
  • Don’t ask close-ended questions or use sales tactics like tie-downs

Negotiation Skills Training: Needs Analysis 

Use this four-step process when conducting a Needs Analysis.

  1. Past: Learn everything about their past.
  2. Present: Where are they at right now? What are their needs? Why?
  3. Future pleasure: What happens if they get the house they want? How would that feel?
  4. Future pain: What happens if they don’t get that house? How would that feel?

Starting with the Past: “Letting the Marlin run”

When you uncover the past during your Needs Analysis, you are “letting the Marlin run.” This analogy comes from fishing, You let the Marlin “run” for a while before reeling it in. If you try to reel it in right away, you won’t be successful because it’s a big, strong fish. It’s running from pain. You might snap the line. 

The same thing is true in a negotiation. You have one perspective, and the other person may have another perspective. You need to let them tell their story before you can move forward. Learn their “why”. Let the other person get everything out before you start trying to persuade them in any way. “Let the Marlin run” and help them release their pent up energy, frustration, and emotion.

Otherwise, if you start persuading, they will interrupt you and become so focused on forming their next argument that they won’t listen to anything you say. You won’t gain their trust. They won’t get on the same page as you.

negotiation skills training

Moving to the Present

Why does the other person want what they want? You are uncovering their “why” in this step of the Needs Analysis. You learn where they are right at this very moment, and you learn why they want what they want.

Uncovering Future Pleasure and Future Pain

You want them to experience what it would feel like if they got what they want, and also what it would feel like if they don’t get what they want. Conducting a Needs Analysis will help you unlock this and all of the emotions that go along with it.

Negotiation skills training: weighing action vs. inaction

Objections that arise after going through the Needs Analysis can then be addressed. For example, “Well, we simply can’t afford that house.” So, you weigh action vs. inaction. “Well, I know it’s expensive, but remember how it will feel if we don’t do it. Remember the pain. Also, remember all the pleasure you will get if you get the house.” At that moment, they will have the courage to take the uncomfortable action to get the results they want.

Do this with each objection. Weigh the action vs. inaction. What is the future pleasure worth? What is avoiding the future pain worth? You will find yourself repeating this over and over with each objection that arises.

People can’t say no to their own goals.

Prescription and moving forward

Here is the final step in the first part of your negotiation skills training. Now that you’ve conducted a Needs Analysis and weighed action vs. inaction with your client, you can give them a “prescription.” This is the course of action that must be taken. This is the action towards the workable solution. 


Here are the five steps, in order, that we covered today in your negotiation skills training.

  1. Needs Analysis
  2. Develop Tactical Empathy by learning future pleasure and future pain
  3. Label the emotions
  4. Weigh action vs. inaction with any objections
  5. Provide a prescription to move forward

Want to learn more?

Stay up to date on what's happening in our industry and join our Facebook group, the Real Estate Agent Round Table for free, relevant content daily, including breaking news on the real estate market and the Coronavirus crisis.
Stay up to date on what’s happening in our industry and join our Facebook group, the Real Estate Agent Round Table for free, relevant content daily, including breaking news on the real estate market.

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