Buyers and sellers in the U.S. are grappling with uncertainty about the housing market and the economy. As if that weren’t bad enough, they’re also bombarded by headlines that only make it harder to see and understand the landscape.
When you’re talking to a potential client, the best way to build trust is to first find out
- what they want
- what they believe are the obstacles in their way, and
- what they think they need to do in order to remove those obstacles
You, as the knowledge broker, first need to understand where people are before you can see how to guide them from there to where they want to be. Every route begins with a point of origin.
In that first conversation, they’ll have questions of their own that need clear and honest answers. Give them the space to ask them, and be prepared with the data and insights they need to clearly assess their situation.
Then, use prepared questions of your own to get the information you need to guide them toward what would ultimately do them the most good—even if that means not helping them buy or sell a home right now.
In last week’s episode of the Knowledge Brokers Podcast, Byron Lazine put it this way: “Questions are the control of the conversation.” The one asking the questions is generally the one in the driver’s seat.
So, what are some of the questions real estate agents should be asking right now to stay in that seat and steer each conversation to their client’s greatest benefit?
Question #1— “What’s important to you about this decision?”
Tom Toole was the first to volunteer an answer, starting with one that gets right to the heart of what the client wants and why they want it.
If you’re trying to force someone to transact, and they’re not motivated, they’ll likely wind up with some regrets. So, start by getting clear on their motivations.
Question #2— “If this doesn’t work out, what’s your Plan B?”
While this is probably not something you’ll discuss in the first conversation, it’s worth finding out whether or not your client has thought of what they’ll do if things don’t go to plan.
There are two types of Plan B. The person might:
- Give up or change something, but still align with the ultimate goal
- Surrender the ultimate goal to settle for something less
With the first type, the backup plan makes your client’s motivation even clearer. Because if they have a Plan B—in case their original plan doesn’t pan out—that second option will still keep them on the path that leads them to the life they want.
For the client, it’ll mean giving up something valuable. But it should also get them closer to their ultimate goal (just maybe not as quickly).
What to do when a client is guarded about their motivation
The above questions are undoubtedly useful for clients who are happy to discuss the thought process behind their decision to buy or sell a home. But what about those who are more reticent to discuss their reasons behind making a move? What are some of the breakthrough questions to unlock the true underlying motivations?
In this case, as Lisa Chinatti points out, the right questions to ask depend on something agents should try to understand before seeking clarity on a client’s why.
It’s super important to understand the personality type of the person on the other side….And being able to understand personality type guides how you’re going to frame the question, which questions you’re gonna ask, and where that whole conversation goes. If you don’t understand the personality types, it’s gonna be really difficult to figure out how to frame those questions in the right way.
To help agents familiarize themselves with personality types, Lisa recommended two books she’s found particularly helpful in guiding her conversations with each type:
Understanding and helping an analytical client
Byron recently had a question from an agent about an analytical seller. The agent and this client had met once and, naturally, the seller wanted all the data sent to them.
They wanted to go deep on the market, with charts, numbers, and all the relevant information. They wanted to look at it from every single angle—as analytics typically do—in order to position the price perfectly when listing their property.
Analyticals will take the time to dig through all those numbers. But, as Byron has learned from working with clients like this, they want more than to simply have all that information dropped in their lap.
What an analytical wants is for you to line all that information up and sit down with them, face to face, and go through everything.
The next step, Byron explained, is so important. If you know you’re sitting in front of an analytical person, on a listing appointment especially, understand you’re probably not signing the contract that day. So, your goal on that listing appointment is to set the next listing appointment.
So, collect the data, get the data to them, but make sure, before you leave that appointment, you’re setting appointment number two so you’re going over it with them together.
And don’t plan on a half hour. Don’t plan on an hour. Every analytical listing appointment I’ve been on, I’ve blocked off an hour and a half to two hours. And listings are gold; be willing to do it.
Meet Prospects Where They Are
As an agent, you need to be able to understand—and be willing to meet—prospects where they are. And to do so, you need to ask the right questions and speak to their personality.
To recap, two paramount questions to discuss with your clients will get you closer to understanding exactly what they want:
- What’s important to you about this decision? What’s in it for you and for your household?
- Do you have a Plan B if this original plan doesn’t work out?
And for clients who are more guarded as to their motivations, get some clarity on their personality type so you can better understand what questions to ask, how to phrase each one, and, ultimately, what is driving them to buy or sell a home.
The better you understand all this, the more rewarding your conversations will be.