The 5 Principles of Gaining Agreement

Learn how to use logic, power, emotion, trade, and compromise to strengthen your relationships with clients and close more deals.

October 15, 2014

There is nothing more satisfying in real estate than that moment when the client says, “We have a deal.” It’s that moment when all your hard work and tireless effort finally comes to fruition. Whether it took days, weeks, or even months to get agreement, one thing’s for sure: It didn’t happen by accident. But how did it happen? What were the factors that determined the outcome? Why did this deal work when others did not?

I agonized over these questions for several years after I opened my first business. I needed to know why some deals worked and others didn’t. The survival of my business literally depended on it. To help me understand why some people agreed quickly or eventually, while others never agreed to buy, I decided to do an autopsy on past deals. I discovered, much to my surprise and delight, that all of my interactions with clients and prospective clients were subject to a series of elements I like to call “the five principles of gaining agreement.”

I discovered that all deals in real estate, and in life, are subject to a very specific set of principles. It is by the effective use of these principles that we secure agreement.

Here’s the scoop: Everything that happens in your interactions with others involves one or more of these five elements in action. They are your passport to securing agreement. Control the elements and you will control the outcome.

  1. Logic
  2. Power
  3. Emotion
  4. Trade
  5. Compromise

Let’s take a moment to understand what each of these words represents in the negotiation process because they are your game plan for successful deals.

Logic: The facts or merits of your case. It is demonstrated by your ability to formulate a position based on verifiable information or established facts. For example, in real estate, it might be your comparative market analysis. The more extensive and provable your facts are, the more logical your argument will be. It is important to note here that opinions and anecdotal evidence are not facts. In order for a logic-based position to have merit, it must be supported by verifiable data.

Power: The ability to penalize or reward. In effect, it is your ability to describe the benefits or consequences of choices to the other party. In real estate transactions, it might be based on the potential for appreciation on a particular property (positive power), or perhaps it might be based on what they will miss out on if they pass on the deal (negative power). Clearly, the more attuned you are to the needs and desires of your clients, the more power you will have to influence and leverage a deal. Get to know your buyers and sellers, listen to them, and learn what is important to them, because, ultimately, your power is determined by knowing how the deal impacts them.

Emotion:The human element. The ability you have to connect to the other party’s feelings. This element works on two levels. First, it is based on your ability to build rapport and connect one-on-one, to develop trust and believability. People like to work with people they like; by developing your likability through empathy, you will set the tone for a trust-based relationship. Second, emotion is demonstrated by your ability to identify how people feel about the object of the negotiation. In real estate, for example, it might be how your clients feel about the property or neighborhood. The more emotionally attached to the house or the area the buyer is, the more likely it is that you will secure a favorable deal.

These first three elements — logic, power, and emotion — are life’s persuasive skills. All people are persuaded to a point of view based on their ability to formulate an argument that includes all three elements. In simple terms, you must show your clients that you are right and accurate in your statements, that it is in their best interest to accept your position, and that you are being honest, fair, reasonable, and empathetic. This will lead to an agreement.

However, this game plan is not a magic wand. If your client thinks you are incorrect, does not believe that the deal is in their best interest, or does not trust you, then, obviously, no such agreement will ensue. That is why there are two other elements to take into consideration.

If the first three elements are life’s persuasive tools, the other elements, trade and compromise, are your creative tools. Here is a brief understanding of how these principles operate in the process of gaining agreement.

Trade: Something for something. It represents your ability to offer a fair exchange of value. It is always our desire to gain agreement without concession — that’s the purpose of the persuasive elements — but given a situation where you are unable to construct a strong enough persuasive argument, it’s important to have a trade to offer as a fallback position. There are many ways to create effective trades and I would need to write another article just to cover all the options, but in the meantime, here are a couple of examples that might relate to a real estate transaction.

1. You might be willing to accept a price reduction if you can get a deal today.

2. You might be prepared to include extra options in the deal if they accept your price.

These are two quick examples of a real estate trading scenario that I share to demonstrate the principle of trading in the negotiating process. There are, of course, many different ways to exchange value to gain agreement. The more creative your thought process is, the greater will be the variety of trades you can construct for your clients.

Compromise: Mutual or individual concession. This is where one or both parties move from their original position in order to reach agreement. The important point to remember when considering a compromise is to be sure that your client is sufficiently committed to the deal. If you are the only one compromising, that’s called giving away the store. The obvious compromise in a real estate deal is on price, and the most successful compromise solutions happen after all other persuasive arguments and creative options have been explored. In summary, compromise is part of the game plan but should never be offered early or casually.

Seasoned professionals know that there are many nuanced factors that determine the outcome of deals, and to use a real estate analogy, if securing a deal were like building a house, then the five principles that I have described are the foundation on which the house is built.

Barry Elms, president of Strategic Negotiations International, is a Signature Series speaker for the National Association of REALTORS®. He has spoken at NAR events nationwide. His book, Because I Said So – A Guide to Negotiating With Children or Grownups(2012), is available through Amazon and other booksellers worldwide. To learn more about Barry and his services, visit