Influencers from Around the World – The Principle Of Liking With Real Estate Agents

This month our “Influencers from Around the World” post comes from Marco Germani. Marco is a native of Italy and lives in Rome. A skilled practitioner of influence for decades, he even wrote a book on the subject in Italian. In this post he explains how the principle of liking can impact the sale.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.  

The Principle Of Liking With Real Estate Agents

The principle of influence popularly known as liking, as expressed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, states people are more likely to say “yes” to those they know and like and those they perceive as similar to themselves. I had a real-life test of the liking principle recently when my wife and I decided to buy a small apartment in a coastal town near Rome, our home in Italy. Our goal was to rent the apartment and generate some extra passive income.

I carefully researched the market and I got in touch with all the existing real estate agencies of the area, visiting almost 20 different properties, within the size and budget we defined, before settling on two particular apartments, the most appealing of the lot.

Next we had to make a decision – which to purchase followed by a formal written offer to the owner. Both apartments looked good, were in a nice area close to the railway station and shops, had better than average quality-price ratios, and both owners appeared to be particularly motivated to sell quickly. All things considered, for a few reasons we both liked apartment #1 slightly more than apartment #2. We were also dealing with two different real estate agents.

The agent dealing with apartment #1, whom I’ll call Mrs. Bianchi, was a middle-aged woman and owner of the real estate agency. From the beginning she didn’t appear to be very skillful or professional. When she sensed there was real interest from our side, she started to ruthlessly apply every selling technique straight out of a sales book:

  • She called me the following day telling me there was another very motivated buyer for the same apartment and we needed to hurry up with our proposal.
  • She gave me an inflated evaluation of the rent rate I could ask to the future tenant.
  • She tried to “close” us in several other ways, but without any particular skill in doing so.

We were interested in the apartment anyway, so her poor sales skills were not a problem for us. When I went to her office to negotiate her agency commission she become upset and acted surprised that I was asking for a reduction. She treated me like I had offended her. By keeping a straight face and with the technique of the “broken record,” simply asking over and over for my conditions regardless of her behavior, I was able to obtain a reasonable reduction on her requested fee and everything seemed to be right to make an offer at a price the apartment owner would have accepted.

The agent dealing with apartment #2 was a completely different story. Fabio, a salesperson working for the agency, was a skilled and trained professional and from the moment he first told me “hello” on the phone. I could clearly tell he was somebody who understood the basics of salesmanship and worked hard on his craft. From our first meeting he was focused on building a relationship with me:

  • He tried to find common ground and he told me about his passion for the Greek island of Santorini, after hearing I have been there twice on holiday and loved the place, where he even owns a small studio, advising me to consider buying one myself one day, even proposing to help for free.
  • He also told me, after noticing my interest for apartment #2, that there was another motivated buyer and I needed to hurry (a trick I guess must be on page one on the manual of the good sales agent in Italy!) but he did it in a sincere and elegant way, always positioning on my side and asking “for my help” in solving the problem when we needed to move forward in the discussion.

After some smooth negotiation, we ended up with the exact same conditions, buying price and agency fee, for the two apartments. We liked apartment #1 slightly better but we liked Fabio, the agent for apartment #2, a lot better. It was a difficult call and, to my surprise, my wife and I both felt better about moving on the apartment sold by Fabio, even though we liked apartment #1 more! We mentioned a bunch of rational justifications linked to the technical aspects of the business but we both knew it had all to do with the personality of Fabio and the principle of liking at work. This principle being so powerful to lead us to want a less appealing “product” because we liked the salesperson better!

The story does not end there. After defining a strategy with Fabio for the proposal, with a very low first offer which was meant to be turned down by the apartment owner (which he did) to then come up with our real offer, something else happened.

Fabio called us one evening telling us he had just received the mission to sell another property. Apartment #3, a real deal being sold by a “don’t-wanter” (someone with serious financial issues ongoing, who urgently needed money) was ready to sell a much better apartment than the one we decided to buy, for the same price. Everything was contingent on the money coming in fast and in cash, which was possible for us. We closed the deal quickly and everybody was happy, including Fabio, whom we decided to reward by accepting his request for a much higher fee than the one we agreed, one which still kept the deal very advantageous for us.

The moral of this story is twofold:

  1. Even though you are trained on the principles of influence and are aware of how the principle of liking could (and sometimes shouldn’t) influence your buying patterns, it will work all the same and you can find yourself buying a less appealing product sold by a salesperson you like more.
  2. For anybody involved in sales, neglecting to work on this principle, by learning to genuinely be interested in others, create empathy and build a relationship before talking about the deal, can be very expensive. In today’s economy nobody in real estate, or in any other business involving human interactions, can afford to ignore the principle of liking.

Besides, we might start investigating if any good property is available in Santorini someday, with the help of Fabio, of course!


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