In the show American Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz look for treasures in the sheds and barns along the highways and back roads of the country. When they find something of value, whether a rusted Indian motorcycle or bullet-riddled Coca-Cola sign, the duo usually square off against the seller in the classic showdown:
>>>The seller comes in with a high number looking for room to wrangle the best price he can get.
>>>The buyer fires a lowball shot looking to get the seller to cave as low as possible.
That’s the way it’s done, right? This approach assumes there will be a “winner” and a “loser.” But in one particular episode, the pickers encountered Jocko, a California dive shop owner with a classic collection of vintage dive gear. The negotiations for a brass dive helmet began as per the above, but then something happened when new information came to light. A diving accident had left Jocko’s son Travis paralyzed, and the rehabilitation was very expensive.
Suddenly, Jocko’s motivation for selling items from his collection became crystal clear. He needed money to pay for the expensive physical therapy. But his goal was not to “make money,” his goal was to help his son walk again. Once the pickers knew this, the tone changed. They realized they could help Jocko toward his goal by finding the best prices for his items. They could negotiate as allies, instead of adversaries.
If a buyer can understand the motivations of a seller by asking open-ended questions, there doesn’t need to be a conflict. They can help each other win. And that’s good for everyone’s business.