A few years ago my friend Jane sold her house. She decided not to use an estate agent and advertised in the local press.
Before long a mother and her young daughter came to visit, and it was obvious they were interested in buying. So Jane offered them a cup of coffee and the three of them sat down at the kitchen table.
After exchanging a few pleasantries the visitor explained that she was interested in buying and made an offer of £170,000. This was £10,000 below the asking price and was a little less than Jane was hoping to get. Nevertheless, the offer was not unreasonable so Jane spent a moment or two thinking before responding.
Whilst she was deciding how to reply she heard her visitor say, ‘Or perhaps I could meet you half way.’
Up to this point Jane had said nothing in response to the offer and yet it had just been increased by £5000. What should she do now?
Once again, Jane suspended her reaction. This gave her valuable thinking time. During this time she pondered how readily her buyer had moved on her initial offer. It occurred to her that this person was very keen to buy. With this thought firmly in mind, Jane was now ready to speak. She explained that she had only just placed the house on the market and was expecting a lot of interest. In view of this she was not ready to reduce her asking price quite yet. The buyer instantly responded by agreeing to pay the full price, and the sale was finalised a few weeks later.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that Jane is a very experienced negotiator who is very aware of just how useful silence can be. On this occasion, she chose not to reply instantly to the first offer. She had two reasons for this.
1. She wanted to take a moment to consider what was being proposed.
2. It was obvious that the buyer was keen to buy and she did not want to frighten her off by responding immediately and negatively.
She was also aware that many people are uncomfortable with silence and will often fill a quiet spell with words. This often results in them modifying their original offer, as happened on this occasion. This was not the effect that Jane was trying to achieve this time, but she was certainly not unhappy that it happened.
All too often negotiators are too quick to respond. The pace of their negotiations get faster and faster and before they know it they have reached a deal they are not really happy with.
We could probably all take a leaf from Jane’s book and slow down a little. Silence at the right time in a negotiation can be a very powerful tool.