Learn to Play the Reluctant Seller When You’re Negotiating

And get your best sale price

By Negotiating Coach® and Expert Michael E. Sloopka


Good negotiators always play Reluctant Seller when they’re selling – even before the negotiation starts – because it squeezes the other side’s negotiating range and helps you get your best sale price.

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Let’s say you’re desperate to sell your sailboat – you hardly use it, and the maintenance and slip fees are just too expensive. One day, you’re cleaning your boat when a wealthy-looking man and his companion pass by, compliment your boat, and ask you if it’s for sale. Despite your desperation, play Reluctant Seller.

Give them a tour of your boat, and as you walk through it, tell them what you love about it and how much you enjoy sailing it. Finally, say to them, “I can see how perfect this boat would be for you and how much fun you’d have with it. I don’t think I could part with it, but to be fair to you, what’s the best price you would give me?”

If you’ve done a good job of building the potential buyer’s desire to own the boat, he will have formed a negotiating range in his mind. He may be willing to go as high as $30,000 – while $25,000 would be a fair deal – and $20,000 would be a bargain.

If you appeared eager to sell, he may have offered you only $20,000 – but by playing Reluctant Seller, you may have moved him to the midpoint – or even to the high point of his negotiating range before the negotiations even started.

Similarly, I remember an oceanfront condominium that a female friend had bought as an investment. She was asking $59,000 for the condo, which was considered prime real estate at the time, and the potential buyer wasn’t sure how eager the owner was to sell it or if there were any other offers on it.

So he wrote up three offers: one at $49,000, another at $54,000, and a third at $59,000. He made an appointment to meet with the seller, who had moved out of the condo. After chatting with her, he discovered that she was indeed eager to sell and hadn’t had any other offers on it.

Of the three offers he had prepared, he first handed her the lowest one of $49,000. She accepted it – and when he sold the condo a few years later, it fetched $129,000. (You can only do this in a “For Sale by Owner” situation.)

When people do this kind of thing to you, it’s just a game that they’re playing on you. Good negotiators don’t get upset about it – they just learn to play the negotiating game better than the other side.

Three key points to remember:

  1. Always play the role of Reluctant Seller.
  2. Playing this gambit is a great way to squeeze the other side’s negotiating range before the negotiation even starts.
  3. The other side will typically give away half its negotiating range just because you use this gambit.

The Negotiating Advantage Blog


About Negotiating Coach® Michael E. Sloopka

Michael E. Sloopka is President and Founder of Selling Solutions Inc. and negotiatingcoach.com®. Michael is an internationally recognized expert, teacher, and highly rated speaker on the topics of negotiating and decision-making dynamics that affect negotiated outcomes. He is a dynamic, engaging, impactful, and entertaining host who will help listeners better understand and relate to the topic of negotiating and the decision-making dynamics that impact negotiated outcomes.

Michael has appeared as a guest on various popular podcasts and radio programs and has written articles or contributed to articles for the Globe and Mail newspaper, Investors.com, Forbes.com, AMEX Open Forum for Small Business, and Selling Power and Profit magazines. He is also the Host of the Negotiating for Success Podcast.

Michael has personally trained over 50,000 people of all experience levels, across multiple industries, in 31 countries, how to negotiate more effectively. His five-star-rated presentations and negotiating skills training programs have been delivered around the world to small and medium-sized businesses, Fortune 500 corporations, and audiences of large industry, trade, and peer-to-peer associations.

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negotiatingcoach.com® is an international negotiation training, consulting, and coaching firm that specializes in teaching negotiation skills and the decision-making dynamics that affect negotiation outcomes.

negotiatingcoach.com® is a proven solution provider and the benchmark for providing high return-on-investment negotiation solutions, ranging from negotiating skills training programs to complex organization-wide negotiation consulting initiatives.

Offering more than 30 years of successful negotiating experience and expertise in sales, marketing, purchasing, distribution, and consulting – from small business to multinational corporations, from personal transactions to multimillion-dollar extended supply agreements and contracts – negotiatingcoach.com® has added hundreds of millions of dollars to its clients’ collective bottom line through its effective negotiating skills training, consulting, coaching, and negotiation facilitation.