Barbara Corcoran knows good deals aren’t solely built on dollar signs. They depend on timing and emotional intelligence, too.
The secret is to focus more on appeasing the personality of the person across the table than money, says the 73-year-old entrepreneur and investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” That’s true whether you’re buying an apartment, selling your company or trying to land a promotion, she adds.
“Negotiation really has to do with ego and timing,” Corcoran tells CNBC Make It. “Much more so than price.”
It’s a lesson she learned through failure. Roughly three decades ago, Corcoran was approached with an offer to sell her real estate business The Corcoran Group, and she was interested in cashing out, she says.
The prospective buyer rejected her initial asking price, and she took a couple of days to mull over a counteroffer, she says. When she sent back a new number, the buyer didn’t just reject it — they pulled out of negotiations entirely.
“I lost the deal [that] was very important to me,” she says.
Corcoran’s error wasn’t asking for too much money, she says: Rather, the buyer felt disrespected when she didn’t reply soon enough. So, when real estate company NRT offered her $22 million for The Corcoran Group roughly 10 years later, in 2001, she quickly submitted her counteroffer — asking for $66 million instead.
The price was “greedy,” she says, but NRT accepted anyway.
To Corcoran, it was confirmation: She landed the deal because was “quick to give a counter bid,” thereby showing interest in working with the group. And whenever she taught that lesson to her employees, she noticed an interesting trend, she adds.
“As a real estate broker running 1,000 sales agents, I had to teach them negotiating skills,” Corcoran says. “We learned to manage egos more than numbers, and my predominantly female staff were phenomenal, and much better than my men.”
That runs counter to a stereotype that men are better at negotiating than women, which some experts say contributes to the U.S. gender pay gap. American women earned only 82% of their male counterparts’ median annual earnings in 2022, according to the Pew Research Center.
That number has crawled up just two percentage points in the last 20 years.
Women seem to anticipate more backlash and concede more quickly when negotiating salaries than their male counterparts, according to a 2010 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study. But the trend dissipates as women gain negotiating experience, noted a 2015 moderator analysis published in The Psychological Bulletin.
That experience is key, Corcoran says — especially because it involves learning to get up and try again after making a mistake.
“[Negotiation] is the second-most important skill, after getting back up after rejection,” she says. “Unfortunately, the only way to really learn is … by tripping up and making many, many mistakes.
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”
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