Interviewing for the Listing - How to Come Out on Top Even if Your Commission is Higher than Your Competition's

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

Picking up from yesterday's blog about my agent friend Sam who was referred to a seller who "has a friend who will list it cheap," let's talk about how Sam should handle the whole issue of commission, knowing that his competition is in all likelihood going to charge less.

The question I signed off with yesterday was something along the lines of should Sam address the issue of his competition's lower commission head-on?

In my opinion, no. He should not. Why?

Because, the only way to "address" it would be to criticize it. And that's not cool. Any overt attempt Sam makes to come out on top in a battle of commissions is going to make him look bad.

First, Sam would be criticizing the seller's friend, which in all likelihood will not endear him to the seller, even if he happens to be right in his criticisms. But not only is he criticizing a friend of the seller; he's also subtly criticizing the seller's own judgment! After all, the seller is considering hiring this friend, so if Sam tries to argue him out of it, he's basically telling the seller he's wrong... which rarely goes over well.

Besides, Sam has no idea what level of service the seller's friend will provide. Maybe she'll cut her services, but maybe she won't. Coming from a background of owning a full-service discount brokerage, I can say with all sincerity that it IS possible to run a profitable, full-service real estate business while charging less than the competition. Unless Sam has full knowledge of the other agent's marketing plan, he has no business putting it down.

So, what should Sam do if he wants a shot at this listing? Well, it's pretty simple. He should go into the listing appointment with the heart of a consultant. He should ask a lot of questions and really listen to the answers. He should show empathy for the seller's situation, and be able to provide solutions to any problems they uncover. He should be intimately familiar with the seller's neighborhood and conversant about local market activity. He should demonstrate an ability and willingness to help the seller get his home ready for market.

In short, he should do his best to win the seller to his side by being friendly, helpful, creative and knowledgeable.

And... what if, after all this friendliness, helpfulness, creativity and knowledgeability (?) the seller chooses the friend anyway? No biggie. Sam can walk away with honor, knowing he gave it his best shot, and that he made a positive impression on one more human being on the planet! And you never know when that will come back to bless you!


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  1. Lisa Lambert/PMN/AHWD/SRES 03/19/2010 02:22 PM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Rookies Turning Pro
Learn to be a Top Producing Listing Agent
Selling Soulfully
Art of Professional Salesmanship
The Ninety-ninth Percentile
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Terri Poehler
Realtor - Coral Springs, FL
Coral Springs Real Estate Agent

This seperates the professionals from the  . . not so professionals. I always found bashing the competition said something about our character. good blog, Jenifer. As Always.

Mar 09, 2010 12:12 AM #10
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Jennifer- Your post is spot on. We have very seldom been in this position where we are competing against another agent over commission amounts. But when we have been told someone else would do it all for less, we like to say, " Great! Good luck to you and we hope you sell your home." Then we put them in our database to follow up in 6 months when it expires. If they bring it up the second time around, we just say, " how's that working for you?" Always question, never criticize. But like I said, we seldom are ever in a conversation about our fees. Katerina

Mar 09, 2010 01:13 AM #11
Stephen Arnold
HomeSmart Elite Group - Scottsdale, AZ

Wonderful post Jennifer!  One should be able to roll into a listing appointment with faith in themselves and the level of service they provide!  If the seller believes in you..the commission will be a secondary issue.

Mar 09, 2010 01:27 AM #12
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

You cannot criticize directly.  I like a combination of approaches and going off something you suggested in the first post.  When they tell you the low listing price just say that sounds like a good price if it includes: (then insert the list of things you can do that are unique). 

Mar 09, 2010 02:37 AM #13
Ritu Desai
Samson Properties - Ashburn, VA
Virginia Realtor-Fairfax/Loudoun/PW-703-625-4949

Jennifer, it stand true for buyer agent also. I have recently a client who fired (I should say ) their agent due to various reason. When we first met I listen to what they did not like about their agent instead of criticizing the agent. Best way is to understand your clients needs and wants. Great point

Mar 09, 2010 04:25 AM #14
Cari Anderson
Danville, CA

In any service profession we often walk a fine line in situations like these. You are right - never say anything that could come back to haunt you later. Taking the high road is always the right way to go because I do believe that everything you "put out there" comes back to you.

Mar 09, 2010 06:04 AM #15
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Cari - Indeed!!!

Ritu - That's a great point - let the client do any criticizing that will be done and LISTEN!

Gene - NOT BAD! I like it!

Stephen - I do believe that. And it applies to FSBO's as well - which I may write about next - they aren't opposed to paying a fee, as long as they feel the fee is earned!

Katerina - Ooh - I always like that line 'How's that working for you?"

Terri - It really does. Our audience isn't stupid and in most cases, they aren't interested in gossipping with us. It just makes us look bad.

Kim - Again, it's all about showing the seller the respect of letting him make his own informed decision...


Mar 09, 2010 06:18 AM #16
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

If you cant say something nice, do not say anything at all!  It never ever pays to bad mouth someone, You need to show your positives, not someone elses negatives!

But dont you wish that people would understand that you get what you pay for???

Mar 09, 2010 08:09 AM #17
Ty Lacroix
Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc - London, ON


When faced with that situation I ask the seller: What will it take for me to leave tonight with your signed listing?"

I now know their stumbling block and usually can negotiate from there.


Mar 09, 2010 08:52 AM #18
Joan Zappa
Eagles Wings Realty - Montrose, CO
Professional treatment of our clients, brings awes

Jennifer when we go up against the discounted commission stuff we simple say , before we talk about what it's going to cost you ,let me show you why we are the best agents in the best company. By the time we finish we usually 90% of the time get the listing. I just had another unique situation with a listing this week.

The seller is very close with another agent and they had this listing for 6 months, nothing happened. I now have the listing as of today and a big price reduction as well.

The key is be positive, avoid ransacking the competition, and give them a reason to choose you.

Mar 09, 2010 09:50 AM #19
Jim Palmer
Chipola Realty - Chipley Office (850) 638-2777 - Sunny Hills, FL
Washington County, Florida

And if all your skills do not get you the listing, you can always find a buyer and show your professionalism on the buying side.

Mar 09, 2010 09:34 PM #20
Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

A good friend and sales person always used to say , Never knock the competition, They will do a better job on themselves than you could ever do. " Staying positive is absolutely the way to go

Mar 10, 2010 06:49 AM #21
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

JA great post as always. In thirty+ years of selling I have made it a practice of not to make derogatory remarks about competitors. It is counterproductive and makes you look bad. Thanks again for SWS.





Mar 11, 2010 01:39 PM #22
Kathryn Acciari
Century 21 Real Estate - Shrewsbury, MA
Brand Ambassador and Business Coach

Well put, Jennifer.  Service first, then sales.

Mar 12, 2010 12:13 AM #23
Jill Schmidt
Aurora, CO

Jennifer, I agree.  It is so much more appropriate to go to the appointment, find out what they need, and talk about your own services.  I want to work with people who understand my value instead of take me for granted as "cheap".  I won't take them for granted and I work hard for them - I want them to understand that.

Mar 15, 2010 04:04 AM #24
Lois Kubota
Keller Williams, Walnut Creek, California, DRE#01865028 - Walnut Creek, CA

Jen, as usual, you have it right.  People hire you because they like what you have to say and because they click with you.

Mar 15, 2010 03:18 PM #25
Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

I once lost a listing to the seller's high school chum, but the seller's wife referred me to her boss when he wanted to sell his house.  I'm currently in my second transaction with her employer---one loss gave me a win-win.

Mar 16, 2010 03:01 AM #26
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

I believe that doing the right thing and truly trying to help people discover what is right for their situation leads to rewards down the road.  I want to be a consultant!

Mar 16, 2010 04:04 AM #27
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Jennifer. GREAT POST! Tenth-rate agents have only one arrow in their quiver...a lower commission. I'm a big believer in that you get what you pay for. The discounter will probably just do the same old MLS routine and not have a creative or dynamic approach or be knowledgeable enough about market conditions to price strategically and market effectively.

I think it also follows that the tenth-rate agent/discounter will not be able to write well, uses pictures pirated from previous listings, has signs that are always tipped over, info boxes that are almost empty etc. and a host of other red flags that should alert the seller to the fact that discounting is desperation, to try to snag listings.

If people are short-sighted enough to list with the tenth-rate agent/discounter, there probably isn't anything you can do to counter on the first go round but...I agree with ready to go back in when the seller becomes disenchanted with their "bargain."

Mar 16, 2010 07:16 AM #28
Deborah & Steve Love
Salt Lake Homefinders at Aubrey & Associates - Salt Lake City, UT

Great post!  I love being a consultant to my clients, it's something I always prided myself on.  We (Steve..husband and partner extrordiare) have helped clients through loan modification as opposed to short sale, when the "salesman" thing to do would be push the short sale.  We have actually told clients that it is Not in their best interest to sell at the time.  Our clients refer us because they trust us to give them solid information so they can make informed decisions. (little bragging here, but hey, it's a peer forum)

Mar 17, 2010 04:42 AM #29
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