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Listening is Gold

July 02 2010

listening goldI think everyone needs to listen more, especially Real Estate Agents.  We seem to focus more on what we offer and can do, rather than listening to the needs of our clients.  When we listen more, and talk less, we have an opportunity to put the client first, and also turn that listening into gold.

I am not stating this is the case for ALL Agents, but some. When I first talk to my clients, I try to ask questions, and really listen to their answers, writing notes the whole time.  I keep a spiral notebook with all my client contacts, and put the start end dates, and retain these.

I have 11 years worth of such books stockpiled in my home office.  Today you can use a number of client relationship management (CRM) software to store client information. It is a good reference for future contact from the same clients, when I can say “Well in 2004, you wanted a 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bath house, with 1.5 acres, but then decided to wait – what are you seeking now?”  That never fails to impress my clients.  It shows them I do care, still care, and I did listen.

In the Moment
Focus is often the problem, in the world of multi-tasking we all exist in, not everyone is capable. And being in the moment with your client is far more important.  That is easily read on the phone and people will know when you are not “with them”.   I often start my conversations with letting the client, or potential client, tell me why they are calling, then based on that I have a series of questions that I will ask to better refine my understanding of their needs.

These questions can depend on the information provided in the initial “interview”, but typically are not covered as the Client is far more interested in conveying the emotional and aesthetics of their desires in a home, and not the basic elements.
My questions:

  1. How many bedrooms, bathrooms, garages, and lot size?
  2. What is the style of your current home and do you like it?
  3. What about your home now suits your needs and what does not?
  4. Tell me how you feel about your current home (this question gives you a sense of who they are and what they might be like, as well as helping define my search, I get a bit esoteric I guess).
  5. What is your timeline for moving?
  6. Have you talked to a Lender already?

The Essential and Most Important Question Last
Of the above questions, the most important truly is the last.  By making it the last question it allows you to build a rapport with your client, and some degree of comfort before you ask the most uncomfortable of all questions, and the most essential and important.  You are not asking them to give you their credit report, and to disclose any financial information, but you are verifying that they have actually taken steps in preparation, and know where they stand.

This also allows you the opportunity to discuss what kind of financing options they might have available, and how the process works.  I do not care how many times people have purchased homes, they always have questions about this process.  If they are not pre-approved, then you can direct them to some reliable Lenders to talk to.

The Next Step
I send the client a preliminary list of properties, whether pre-qualified with a Lender or not.  I then ask them to review the properties, and email me back with feedback – telling me what they like and don’t like.  Just like when I was doing Graphic Design, I get a feel for my client and what they like – and then translate that to the end product.  In Real Estate once I get this feedback, we have a secondary conversation to discuss the results, and I listen more to what they have to say, taking additional notes.

This works nicely, as I have gone from showing ridiculous number of properties, to really nailing down the options to what they want based on what they tell me.  I can do a 5 house tour and know quite often exactly which house they will make an offer on.

Listening Saves Money
By listening carefully to my clients, and taking detailed notes, it saves me money.  The way this happens is in the value I get back in the time saved.  By not showing them 40 houses, by helping them review and refine their options, and revisiting with follow-up conversations, and sometimes even telling them to drive through the various neighborhoods to get the “flavor”, we are right on target.

There are exceptions to every rule, and a lot of this depends on the personality type (I am a big believer in personality types).  This works well with an amiable, expressive and often an analytical, but a driver might be more difficult to sway.

Listen More Make More
If you spend more time listening to your client, focusing on their needs, you will save a lot of time and money for yourself.  You could easily translate that same time you used to spend with the client into time with four clients.  Isn’t that a lot more profitable?  And doesn’t that also serve your clients needs better?

Listen more, talk less.  I love that saying “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason”.