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Your Insider Investing for Real Estate Agents book has been very helpful. While I am not the one at the company who hires speakers, I have recommended your book and website to many of my colleagues. Cynthia Lee, Weichert Realtors


Counseling the Lead – Part Two May 13th, 2016 | Posted in General Real Estate, Other Interests, Real Estate

If you review yesterday’s post, you’ll see that the incoming seller lead question list is extensive; however, I always believed that if the seller was not willing to answer questions then quality of lead was lessened in my eyes.  The more information you receive from the seller, the better chance you will have of actually achieving the seller’s goals.  The perception of a well-prepared real estate agent ready to change the seller’s life will certainly beat the perception of the real estate agent who shows up and just “wings it.”  The reasons behind the questions are detailed below:

1.       Obviously, you would need to know the property address because sometimes it is different than the mailing address.  The date and operator are important as are the seller’s names.  Please ask the spelling of the seller’s name(s).  Nothing is more embarrassing than showing up with presentation documents with the seller’s name(s) misspelled!  Get all contact information and also the best times available to reach them.  I have two sections for this contact information since often there are two people involved in this process.  Asking for the decision maker is something that I often neglected to do because it could be putting someone on the spot.  Use your best judgment in using this question.  It was easier to make that determination based upon my conversations.  However, sometimes in business situations asking for the final decision maker is life or death to the transaction.

One of the most important questions is to find out how they heard of you.  This allows you to modify your business systems to spend your time and resources on those that generate the most profitable leads.  One of the things that I liked most about this business is that you can consistently and on a daily basis adjust your business to become more profitable.  If you find that you are spending time or money on a system that does not produce leads, that system could be considered for modification or the chopping block at the end of the year; however, and most importantly, if you receive leads from a system that you are not aggressively working like database solicitation, you will find that discovering leads coming from an under-appreciated source will excite you to spend more money and time throwing resources at that lead-generation system.

2.       The “why do you want to sell?” question is important because it is the first question to determine motivation.  Rarely will sellers tell you right up front why they want to sell.  Many sellers like to keep this information close to the vest, thinking that a lower desperation price will not be quoted to them.  Many sellers like to keep their motivations as secretive as possible, therefore not to give the buyer and/or the real estate agent the upper hand in the negotiations, so you might have to ask this question more than once.  There are different ways to phrase the question, and you might have to ask a few different ways when the first answer does not make sense.  For instance, you could ask, “How does (insert clients’ answers) cause you to want to sell your property?”  If that does not make sense, you ask “How does (insert both answers) play a part in your wanting to move?”

These are different ways to elicit information from sellers and determine their core need of motivation.  In great markets where things sell on a rumor and the days on market are extremely low, you can take sellers with low motivation because the higher prices and activity almost always excite them to sign a sales contract; however, when you are in a slower market, and you are dealing with an under-motivated seller, you will find that they seldom put up with the negotiations and the hard decisions necessary to get a property sold.

It is very important that in slowing or tough markets that you do not spend a lot of time with sellers who do not have a good reason to sell.  Sellers who have a good reason to sell are those who have the big “D’s” such as debt, disillusionment, and divorce. Another group of individuals who qualify as motivated sellers are those with a great need to increase space, reduce space, or relocate to a different geographical area.  Sellers with very poor reasons to sell are those testing the market or those wanting to get the neighbor’s price.  Before you spend your resources on under-motivated sellers in a tough market, know that they cost more time and energy and have a lower percentage of actually closing.  A double whammy – you lose time and marketing dollars!

3.       Asking for the person who may have referred the business to you is important because sometimes you might not have enough information to properly thank the referring person.  Whether you are new in the business or a thirty-year veteran, you will find that people will give you third-party referring names that you just do not recognize.  Make a habit of asking for the contact information from your client so you can determine if a referral fee is due.  Upon ending your conversation with the seller, write a handwritten thank you note to the referring party.  Also make certain that the referring party is updated in your database.

4.       This question asks who else the potential seller is interviewing to sell their home.  Some agents may not ask this question for fear of giving the seller the idea of interviewing other agents, but I promise you that they have already thought about it!  Knowing your competition allows you to make some very important decisions.  If you have not heard of the other agent or if you feel the other agent is not true competition for you, you can rest a little easier and make other appointments closer to the projected end time of the listing presentation.  If you find that you are up against very stiff competition, you can then start designing the listing presentation to answer some of the other agent’s known deficiencies.  If someone was up against me in my market, my deficiency was that I had a reputation for not having enough time for a client.  If you were up against me in a listing presentation, your proposal might include large time commitments including follow up, open houses, personal meetings, and other commitments that I might not be able to compete with. Never bad-mouth your competition, but always look for the holes in your competition’s program that you can fill!

When determining your competition, you will need to determine whether or not to bring your statistics.  If your stats are good and are available to you on your MLS, it would be appropriate to bring these statistics from you and your competition to the listing presentation.  If you find that you are in a heated battle to achieve this listing and the seller is comparing real estate agents based upon productivity, it would then be appropriate to pull out these MLS published statistics to show how you beat the competition by the numbers.  Please do not bring the statistics if the competition is going to outshine you.

You also have to determine if being the last one presenting is the appropriate thing to do. Being the last one in is an extremely important part of a listing presentation because the truth is that a seller cannot make the decision to sell until they have received all information.  Receiving all the information is a function of meeting with all the real estate agents.  Most nice people will not make a decision until they have met with the others with whom they have made appointments. The old adage of being the first in to blow away the competition with the signature is a tad bit on the arrogant side – even for me!  Most sellers will wait, especially if you ask them to!  This is not to say that I have not been in a position to be the first or second agent to make a presentation in a field of three or more.  If you find yourself in a similar position, I suggest that you at least try to get the property signed up.  If you do find yourself as NOT the last agent in, the following verbiage is a little bit aggressive, and it goes something like this:

“Mrs. Johnson, I understand that you have made appointments with other real estate agents.  Maybe I can save you some time.  Based upon our conversations, I believe that you’d agree that my systems and strategies will help meet your goal of (insert goal).  My systems and strategies create efficiencies and motivate the cooperative agents to sell your home.  If you are willing to move ahead tonight, I can simply call the other agents and give them half of my commission, if they actually have a buyer for your property.”

I know that sounds a little silly, but it actually works when you are put in the untenable position of making a presentation prior to their visit with the last real estate agent.  Not wanting to make that plea presentation, I always tried to be the last real estate agent the sellers interviewed.  The moment I understood that they were interviewing other real estate agents, I would then make a play for becoming the last agent that they interviewed.  The script went something like this:

“You know, Mrs. Johnson, after all these years of being in business, I have found that as a seller interviews other agents, their knowledge of what services are available and what they would like to see happen increases; consequently, the need list also increases, allowing an agent a better chance to meet those needs.  I would like to be the last person you interview so I have a complete wish list that you will want to see implemented to get your property sold.”

This usually gets me an initial commitment to be the last person seller’s interview.

5.       The next question is just a trial close to allow me to “take their temperature” regarding my ability to walk out of the presentation with the listing.

6.       This question is extremely important, especially in slower markets, to make certain that all decision makers are present.  In a fast market, you may receive an objection from the seller such as, “Walter, I make all the real estate decisions for this family.”  When that happens in a faster market, rather than upsetting the apple cart, I would usually meet with one decision maker and get their signature.  I would then try to obtain a follow up commitment later from the other spouse.  Please understand that when you do this, you will have to make two listing presentations no matter what, but I would rather do this than not be invited for one listing presentation.  On the other hand, in a slowing or tough market, I would not leave the office until all decision makers would be present.  I was very clear about this point with my potential sellers in a market where hard decisions had to be made.  You will need to make your own decision regarding this.  Since these systems are all about making the most amount of money in the least amount of time, I hope you do follow that suggestion.

7.       This allows me to make certain that I have all documents that I will present at the listing presentation correctly customized for all parties.  This also allows me to hear about other surprises like “Aunt Margie,” the real estate agent aunt from Buffalo who happens to be visiting and would like to “sit in” to see how it is done here.  If you have ever had an “Aunt Margie” experience, you will find that she will do whatever she can to rationalize her reason to make an appearance at the presentation and prove she is “the” real estate maven.  She will ask you the most difficult to ridiculous questions to prove to her relatives that she is the real estate “stud-ette” that she has always claimed to be.  Knowing about “Aunt Margie’s” arrival will allow you to personalize documents for her, ask her questions, make her feel part of the situation, hopefully quelling some of her desires to get me tossed out of the game.

8.       This is another trial close, which I only want you to use if it is appropriate in the situation.

9.       Many people have to move from one geographical region and own other properties in that same area.  Rather than listing their eight units with someone else, I think it is appropriate for you to ask if there are other properties that they have forgotten to tell you about, allowing you to make presentations for that additional real estate, as well.  That one question has earned me up to three new listings each year.  Do not forget this question!

With all of these questions, do not ever believe that you can memorize them!  I used some form of this question list each year that I sold real estate.  Sometimes you will receive calls and queries from impatient sellers or sellers with other agendas who are not willing to answer your questions.  When these questions cannot be answered because of a lack of sellers’ time or interest, please let them know that they are being asked for their own benefit.  Use the following script to help explain your case.

“Mr. Johnson, I understand that you need to pick up the kids at school.  Can we make a phone appointment so that I can get these questions asked so I can do a better job in research and preparation for our meeting?  Would 7 or 7:30 tonight be better?”

That objection-overcoming strategy will allow you to get these questions answered prior to your meeting, which is obviously the goal.

10.     This is a follow up to question nine.

11.     “Where are you moving?” is an extremely important question because it allows you to find out the exact destination and find agents in your system to be a referral-fee source.  This is also another opportunity for a third-party endorsement.  Third-party endorsements from affiliates and referred agents are strong systems that I constantly teach in our Teaming Up system.  Third-party endorsements merely state that you are great, instead of you stating you are great!

“Where are you moving?” is the start of this process.  With the world reaches of our real estate industry, your potential client is moving to an area where you can find a great referral agent, I suggest that you contact the referral agent to let him or her know that you have a listing opportunity.  Let him or her know if that listing opportunity ends up in a sale, then the seller will be looking to buy a home in his or her local market.  Let the referral agent know that this opportunity will give him or her a great client and increase the chances of getting the referral if you get the listing.

I would ask the referral agent to call the potential clients to ensure that they are well-educated regarding the opportunities in their soon-to-be new town.  The referred agent might offer copies of newspapers, websites, introduction to team members, school information, and other details to make the transfer as smooth as possible.  During this transfer of information from the referring agent to the potential seller (potential buyer for the referral agent), the referring agent can say, “Congratulations, Mrs. Johnson, on working with Walter Sanford!  We hear that he is one of the top agents in your area!”  This goes a long way in offering value and a third-party endorsement to a seller to whom you have not yet made a listing presentation!  The goal is to beat the competition early.

12.     This question starts the referral deal by outperforming the agent the client may already have.

13.     This question opens up the opportunity to possibly have your lender contact clients during the pre-confirmation package period, which will be covered in the next chapter.  This sets up another opportunity to add value and a third-party endorsement.

14.     The timetable to sell is also a determination of the clients’ motivation, and this also possibly gives an agent insight into the importance of this listing appointment.

15.     Pricing is always an excellent indicator in determining which properties an agent will pursue and which ones he or she will refuse.

16.     This question allows you to determine a client’s potential for being upside down regarding equity.  Should that happen, may I suggest that you take a look at some of the documents that we prepare in our letter book regarding short pay offs or short sales?  In such a case, a lender upon much negotiation might actually accept a lesser amount than what the loan is, in return for a property that is sold prior to the REO process.  More about the REO process in another chapter.

17.     Understanding that clients might need a 1031 tax-deferred exchange allows you to properly prepare and arrange a free appointment with an I.R.C. 1031 Tax-Deferred Exchange accommodator.

18.     When you know what criteria clients will be using in hiring, not only can you prepare your presentation to meet their criteria and expectations, but you will also exceed those objectives.  If you are new in this business, I suggest that you have your owner/broker/manager help prepare a presentation that will help meet their goals.  This was my favorite and most productive question.

19.     As an agent, I prepared clients to receive either an E-mail with links to my website or a package delivered to their homes so they understood the importance of completing and returning this packet prior to our meeting.  Even though I was not always successful in this endeavor, I was extremely strong in implementing and emphasizing this aspect with clients.  You will encounter these forms in later chapters.  Later in the book, you will see how their participating in a pre-listing questionnaire allowed me to do a much better job at the presentation.  The survey also conveyed that I cared more than the competition did.

20.     I wanted to make certain that my staff understood that this was an emergency.  If the potential client did not have E-mail capabilities, then the package needed to be hand-delivered immediately.  If the appointment was in a few hours, the preparation started immediately!

21.     If the potential client was meeting with other agents, I wanted reiterate the fact that the other agents they met with would probably be asking them to list their property.  I would once again request their commitment to wait to make a decision until I was able to make my listing presentation.

22.     If they were going to delay the decision of selling, pending any kind of tax decision, it would be much nicer if that tax challenge was solved prior to my presentation rather than after I spent all that effort.  I would actually arrange free time with my CPA (or any other professional).

23. – 26.     These questions allowed me to gain enough information on the property to do a CMA.

Have these questions on your laptop or in hard copy because a copy of them must be with everyone who answers the phone at any location.  Of course, you must also keep it with its companion question list found in our Fast Lane Buyer Systems book.

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