Seems like everyone is freaking out since mortgage rates topped 8%. And even though they’ve dropped by half a percentage point since then (as of November 6th), dealing with these high rates is still a challenge. 

So, to help break down the best approach to discussing these rates with consumers, I’m sharing a conversation I had with our sales manager, Brian Blouch

After all, the rates are going to be the rates. And there are still 10,000 homes selling a day in the U.S. So, how are you coaching our agents to deal with this the first time? 

Granted, rates this high aren’t new to every potential client out there. Many of them have seen something like this before. 

But how do you talk to those who haven’t?

It comes down to the four cornerstones of what a great conversation is, based on the book by Phil Jones, Exactly What To Say

This is going to help you in having intentional conversations about the market and about interest rates, so you can identify where the client is at in their home search.

Brian Blouch

Cornerstone #1: Preparation

Think about some of the calls we’ve heard or that we coach people on. 

They go from “Hey, I’m checking in to see how your home search is going” to “Hey, I’m not sure if this is going to be for you, but even though rates have jumped up, we’ve seen inventory also jump up a little bit, so there are more options out there. Tell me how you feel about that.” 

It is such a different conversation. And even though you’re basically asking the same thing, I’m much more likely to open up for the latter. 

From there, you need to be prepared to answer questions. I always say poor preparation leads to poor performance. 

And as Brian pointed out, when Phil Jones talks about the four cornerstones of a conversation, he says the worst time to think about what you’re going to say is the moment you’re saying it. If you know, going into a conversation, that you’re going to be talking about interest rates, you need to prepare yourself with some data

You need to be able to respond to the client, whether it’s about interest rates or low inventory or whatever it may be. Preparing creates an intentional conversation.

Brian Blouch

Cornerstone #2: Curiosity

Think about the decisions people are making. You’re talking about rates basically doubling over the past 16–18 months. It’s the biggest financial decision most people make in their entire life. And if you’re not prepared to discuss all the challenges that go with that, you’re not going to put them at ease, much less inspire confidence that you have their back. 

When you’re prepped, and you know what to say, then you can help them decide what’s going to be best for them instead of leaving them wondering, “Does this person really know what they’re talking about?

As you go into the conversation, with data and talking points, be prepared for whatever direction it may take. 

The second key cornerstone to a good conversation is all about curiosity. Phil talks about that being the fuel of the conversation and making sure you’re genuinely curious about their situation. And that comes from being on the call long enough and being curious enough to ask the right questions. 

Make sure you’re genuinely curious about what their situation is and that you can emphasize with that. Because all you’re doing is you’re generating information to make yourself better able to help them and give them recommendations.

Brian Blouch

Get out of judgment and into curiosity

The first mentor I had in this business, John Collins, told me something very similar to this: Get out of judgment and into curiosity. 

Because it’s so easy to get someone on the phone and find yourself thinking, “This person doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” or “They’re not realistic with the market.” 

It might just be that they haven’t had anyone show them what’s realistic in the market. So when you do care about what they care about, you’re the agent who asks all the right questions: 

  • Where are they going to move to? 
  • Are they going to sell a home? 
  • Are they going to buy a home? 
  • Where are they trying to go? 

Cornerstone #3: Questions

Usually, curiosity gets you to the motivation, and motivated clients are the ones that transact. 

I think that’s the key with anything—just having an understanding of what their motivation is. Is it in the next three months? Maybe it’s six months. Whatever their timeframe, you need to know what’s important to them to make recommendations that will simplify the process and help them achieve their goals. 

The third piece of a good conversation that we teach a lot about is a basic truth: the person asking the questions is the one in control of the conversation. 

So be prepared to have a conversation by asking questions. Be curious about their situation, listen to what they say, then go a little bit deeper because that’s going to give you the information you need to help them get the end result they want.

Brian Blouch

Steer the conversation—not the client

I look at when people are in a decision-making phase. You don’t ever want to feel like you’re getting sold. And a lot of times, most agents, when they don’t have the proper training, they just try to talk people into making decisions. And that never really goes well. 

I’ve never felt good about that situation. But when you’re asking questions, and you get people on the self-discovery path, it’s completely different. You’re acting as a guide—not a salesperson. 

Try a question like, “So, what’s buying this home going to do for you?” That answers the question, “How are you going to feel if you lose this property over $5,000?

And most people are like, “Well, I would feel horrible.” 

This is way different from saying something like, “Hey, how dumb would it be for you to lose this over five grand?” That’s not what you want to say to somebody. 

When you ask the question to get the consumer to say yes, instead of telling them what to do, it lets them make the decision for the right reasons. 

This is the empathetic approach. This is you being curious about what they want and what’s important to them and allowing their own answers to lead them to the right decisions. 

Cornerstone #4: Focusing on the right thing

The last thing Brian covered, the final cornerstone, is something a lot of real estate agents don’t understand: People do things for their own reasons—not yours. 

You’re on the phone trying to book an appointment and get them to the next level, but if you can’t get past their struggles, their concerns, they’re going to sense that you’re not equipped to guide them. You’re too focused on what you want. And they’re going to sense that and go ahead and do what they believe is right for them—and probably without your help.”

Staying curious is crucial. For one, listen to them, and ask questions. Get the information you need so you can understand what matters most to your client and make recommendations that take their needs and concerns into account.

Brian Blouch

Asking the right questions (and going from there)

Brian then posed an example: “Let’s say you tell me ‘I’m going to wait for rates to go down.’ 

Brian:So Tom, how confident are you that the rates will go down next year?

Tom:I mean, I’m only as confident as these predictions I see. But they were pretty wrong last year.

And that’s where the book comes in because there’s the basics of the conversation and how you structure the call. But then there’s what to say when you get on that call and how you phrase it. 

Because words matter. What you say and how you say it matters. And it’s really about getting the client into that discovery mode and asking the “What if” questions. 

Sometimes it’s just not the right move for them, and we’ve got to accept that. But you might be able to get them to move up their plans by having some solid conversations, by listening to them, by understanding what their concerns are, and then by giving them some recommendations or giving them some things to think about that they might not have thought about before.

Brian Blouch

Keep the long game in mind

The beauty about this business is you’re talking to someone that owns a house. At some point, that house is going to sell. It could be 30 years from now, but if you build a relationship with them and you prioritize getting curious about them and empathizing with them, you’re going to make sure you’re asking the right questions. And you might not get the answer that you want.

That’s okay. You know what to say, and you get clear on what’s going to be important to that person. For one person, it might be waiting until their kids graduate from high school. So, call them once a quarter. Stay in touch with them, build a relationship. Because what’s important to them is making sure their kids have a great high school experience. 

Then, when their kids move out, that house starts to feel too big. Then, if you’ve nurtured a relationship with this person, and they trust you, they’re more likely to reach out to you when they’re ready to make a move. 

Otherwise, what often happens is people meet an agent once, and that’s the end of it. And with the technology we have now that helps us stay in touch with people and deliver value on a consistent basis, there’s just no excuse for ghosting a potential client after one conversation that doesn’t go the way you hoped. 

Focus on what matters—to your client

I want to thank Brian for this conversation on the four cornerstones of a conversation that builds trust. 

Keep in mind that, even when you have these principles in your conversations, you’re only going to win as long as you’re focused on the things that matter to your clients—not 8% rates or no inventory or any of the objections we’re dealing with—because people are moving every day.

Gain their trust, and you’ll be the agent they think of first.