When we were looking for a house, my wife wanted to live in Hampstead.
Eventually, it took us about 3 years to find one.
Every Friday I’d get the local paper, the Ham and High, and go through the property section.
Then every Saturday we’d get in the car and go look at them.
The reason it took 3 years isn’t because we’re really fussy.
It’s because my wife’s Chinese.
And, if you buy a house you have to make sure the Feng Shui is right.
So every time we saw a house we liked we’d have to send all the details back to her Taoist Temple in Singapore.
What’s the number on the door?
What way does it face?
Is it on a hill?
Where’s the nearest running water?
Is the front door below the level of the road?
Is it near a cemetery or Church?
Is it in a cul de sac?
So for 3 years, every house we liked fell at one hurdle or another.
Eventually we found a house we liked that the Chinese Temple also liked.
So I asked the estate agent if he could get the price down.
A few days later he said he couldn’t.
I asked him to please try again.
Again, a few days later, he said he’d tried but he couldn’t.
After 3 years of looking we really wanted this house.
So I looked at the estate agent as an advertising problem.
How could I get him to want what I wanted him to want?
In short, what was in it for him?
An estate agent’s interest is in keeping the price high, because they get a percentage of the sale.
So I thought, let’s reverse it so that his interest is in getting the price down, not keeping it up.
So I took him for a coffee.
I said, “You’ve told me you absolutely, definitely can’t get the price any lower. But what I’ll do is give you 10%, in cash, of anything you can get me off the price.”
His eyes went wide.
A couple of days later he came back and told me he’d managed to get £50,000 off the cost of the house.
So we met up and I gave him £5,000 in an envelope.
Now £5,000 is a lot of money to give someone.
But I looked at it that he’d just saved me £45,000.
I handled the problem just like an advertising brief.
How can I get them to want what I want them to want?
What’s in it for them?
How we can rewrite the rules in our favour?
How can we get upstream of the situation, and turn a problem into an opportunity?
In short, how can we handle this creatively?
Because you can’t out think anyone else by thinking like everyone else.