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Objections Are Counter-Offers in Disguise-Chris Voss

Posted by Taylor Thompson in Blog, News | 0 comments

Here is the latest is a series of occasional articles on “Negotiation Tips” from former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss who spoke at a previous Association educational program.

By Chris Voss


How do you overcome objections? This article will discuss two rules to consider when you face objections during negotiations, as well as three ways to influence behavior.


#1. You can overcome objections by treating every stated objection as a counter-offer in disguise because it’s really an implied agreement along with a cry for help.

A cry for help can be embarrassing. The person’s reaction may be guarded because they’re protecting their dignity. So, your best response as a REALTOR® is tactical empathy.

Let me explain with this real-world example: In 2003, Dwight Watson held Washington, D.C. “hostage” for three days by driving a tractor to the National Mall and claiming to be in possession of four bombs. As the negotiators tried to get him to surrender, he yelled. “You’re not handcuffing me!”

Did he actually care about handcuffs? Of course not. So, what was our counter offer? We responded by saying, “So it sounds like if we don’t handcuff you, you’ll come out?”

What was the real issue? Answer: Watson’s dignity. Once we addressed the dignity issue, his surrender was accomplished.


#2. Keep in mind when facing objections that the stated objection isn’t the real problem. Rather, it’s actually blocking for an emotional response.

It was Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street) who said, “Objections are merely smokescreens for uncertainty.” What’s another word for uncertainty? Fear.

What’s really happening when a client voices an objection? In most cases, the reasoning side of the brain (IQ) is protecting the emotional side of the brain (EQ). Our EQ is what we truly care about, what drives us, what our passions are.

Often, a client’s underlying reason for their objection is trust — they trust what someone has previously told them or they want to avoid uncertainty. So, your best response as a REALTOR® is to reframe and label their response, acknowledge the trust factor and gently follow the threads to eliminate the uncertainty. You might say: “It sounds like trust is a main priority for you. I understand how important it is to you. So, I would like to offer you a free, no-obligation analysis as a way to work towards building your trust.” People internally have the most trouble agreeing when they don’t trust or feel understood.

Also, you can’t close deals without influencing the other side. So, it’s important to remember when trying to influence behavior that human nature reactions are just the beginning of the decision making process. Here are three ways you can use human nature to help influence behavior.


#1. Acknowledge potential reactions before they happen.

There are four primary emotional reactions: happiness, sadness, fear and anger. Narrowing potential reactions to these four will help you overcome objections. When you need to walk someone through a negotiation conversation, you might say, “This might scare you,” or “What I need to say may make you angry.” Stating how the person on the other side might react will brace them for how they will interpret to what you have to say. As a result, negative emotions can be reduced because the person is not surprised by the feeling. Emotions tend to be exaggerated when a reaction is a surprise.


#2. Create trust through understanding.

The most popular way to create trust is by finding common ground. However, there is one glaring hole with this approach: What if there is no common ground? What do you do if they have preconceived notions, already don’t like you for various reasons, or are being forced to work with you? There are plenty of conversations that take place with people, both internally or externally, where you have nothing in common. Often, you can unknowingly resort to bargaining, “I need this from you,” or, “I can’t give you that.” When that type of conversation starts, then you are in fact engaged in a haggle. So, the answer to building trust in any situation is the use of empathy, articulating the justifications of the other side. No matter who you talk to, they will have their own line of reasoning for their position (whether or not it makes sense to you is irrelevant). So, your best response as a REALTOR® is to verbalize that line of thinking, as opposed to whether you can relate to a life experience.


#3. Uncover the value drivers.

No matter how you slice it, negotiation is a basically an information gathering process. You need information from your counterpart to influence their behavior. Some of the information is predictable, like negative human nature emotions. Other information can be something the other side is actively hiding from you, or they may be ignorant to the importance of how it affects the negotiations. These pieces are what you are looking to bring into the light. The best response is uncover the value drivers, specifically those emotions that are important to them. At the end of the day, negotiation is about gathering information and deciphering how information might affect a person’s emotional makeup.

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