Happiness Is Relative

happiness_relative

‘There’s an old saying that “one man’s gain must be another man’s loss.” Many people take that old adage for granted as the whole truth. And yet, it is totally false. Why? Because happiness is relative. And what pleases one person is not necessarily going to please the next person. This means that two individuals – with different values – can arrange an exchange between them that will satisfy both of them. Neither has to triumph over the other one. Both can gain.’

The Secret of Selling Anything
by Harry Browne

Negotiators would do well to remember this quote from Harry Browne’s excellent book.

What makes me happy may not make you happy. It is knowledge of the relative nature of happiness that enables us to facilitate negotiations where everybody leaves the table satisfied.

Too often, salespeople try and second-guess their clients. Salespeople who think they ‘know’ what their clients want and present based on an erroneous viewpoint, only to lose a sale.

The fact is we don’t always know what clients want, will accept, and be delighted with, unless we ask plenty of questions and develop, over time, an understanding of what will make those clients happy.

Many salespeople will not invest that time and will not ask enough good questions to enable them to determine what it will take to put this negotiation together.

Wrong Path

False assumptions can easily send you down the wrong path. I am not saying that you should not make assumptions. I don’t abide by the saying “Never assume – it makes an ass of you and me.”

It is permissible to make assumptions in a negotiation as long as you test those assumptions by questioning to determine if they are valid and correct. 

Many years ago we listed a property that had too many tenants for its size. Under today’s building codes this would not have been allowed. I conducted a buyer inspection and all was going well. We weaved our way through the various rooms, but then we came to the kitchen. I ushered the buyers in… at the precise moment when a tenant slammed a meat cleaver through a chicken’s neck, beheading it in one stroke. The room looked like a crime scene.

Of course, the tenant did not bat an eyelid, but I assure you the buyers did.

Without skipping a beat I said to the buyers, I don’t think this is the property for you. They agreed. We quickly left.

Not long after that inspection the property sold. It sold for several reasons:

  • The purchasers were prepared to do a little work
  • The purchasers intended tiling the kitchen, and so the blood-soaked timber was going to be covered
  • And above all, the property was priced correctly for its present condition and for the current market

Many people, including agents, described this property as a ‘dog box’. But the dog box sold to buyers who were delighted with their purchase. OK, and they had a bit of imagination too, but they were very happy.

So before you create objections for yourself by thinking that a property is terrible and will never sell, or that you know what your clients want and then present based on false assumptions, or that the clients will never accept the proposal you are about to make, remember that happiness is relative.

Allow for the fact that you might not know them as well as you think you do, that what makes you happy is not necessarily what will make them happy.

Ask the right questions. Find out what their version of ‘happy’ is, and then talk yourself into a sale, not out of one.

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