Prequalifying Clients... It’s Not Just for Buyers!
Last week we hosted an event completely focused on listing presentations, and helping agents understand how they can win at the listing presentation.
I was thrilled at the response (we were completely sold out and had to turn people away at the door!) because it confirmed two suspicions I had: 1) agents are struggling at listing presentations, and 2) agents aren't getting great training on this critical topic.
Based on the questions we had at the event, it was clear to me that most agents don't do much (if any) prequalification of sellers. It seems as though many of you are taught to prequalify before getting in the car with buyers, but that same philosophy isn't extending to the listing side of the business.
Qualifying your seller is an important part of the process. Too often, we get a call from someone indicating they may want to list their house, and we drop everything and dash over. I truly believe agents don't put the same level of care and energy into qualifying sellers that they do with buyers.
Agents typically feel they've qualified the seller if they ask questions such as, "What is your timing for selling?" or "Why do you want / need to move?" without probing further. These questions only scratch the surface of what is driving the seller's decision to move.
When you truly qualify a seller you are discovering not only surface answers but also a seller's concerns and worries. Surface questions don't uncover expectations. And believe me, it's critical to understand what expectations and concerns the seller may have. These are what I call "pain points," and if you don't know what they are you may never get the listing. Even if you do, you could be blindsided when the pain points rear their ugly heads later.
Most agents don't want to do more than scratch the surface. They avoid the pain points because they don't like conflict or they simply are worried about how a seller might react if pushed to a deeper discussion. When you avoid tough questions you are not getting the information that could help you most - the pain points.
Here's what I recommend you ask a seller when you are called to go on a listing appointment: "Have you got a quick 10 minutes for me to ask you a few questions about your house and your situation?"
Assuming the seller agrees, you need to use the three magic words: "Tell me about..."
- Tell me a little about your house (always start here because people are more comfortable talking about things rather than themselves).
- Tell me a little about why you want/need to move.
- Tell me about your timing.
- Tell me how much you currently owe on your mortgage.
- Tell me about your expectations for selling.
You now have a wealth of information regarding a seller's position, motivation, and expectations. The information you receive will not only help you determine whether you should even go on the listing appointment, but will help you know how to position your services.
But let's imagine when you asked for 10 minutes of their time the seller was unwilling or unable to talk. I then suggest you say, "I completely understand. Can you make a little time later?" A seller who says "no" may truly be very, very busy... or it could be a red flag that there is a challenge which you may or may not be interested in taking on. If you decide to go on the appointment anyway, you need to ask the same five questions I outlined above - and make sure you ask those questions right at the beginning of the listing presentation.
There's one additional question you must ask sellers when you are at the listing appointment:
"Is there anything you feel I may need to know that's relevant to the sale of your home?"
When I've asked this question I've gotten information I would never ordinarily have received. For example, one seller told me that he had terminal cancer and that he wanted the home sold before he passed on so his family wouldn't have to deal with it after his passing. Another client shared that the parent sitting in the room with them wasn't on title, but had helped with their down payment money and as a result would be involved in the decision to sell.
Do you think those pieces of information were useful? You bet they were! They completely changed the dynamic of our meeting, and may not have been something the seller would have volunteered without my prompting question.
Remember the three magic words of qualifying I mentioned earlier: "Tell me about..." You can and should use them throughout your discussion with sellers. That might look like this:
"Tell me about your concerns." "Tell me why you think your home is worth $500,000." "Tell me about the process you'll use to select your listing agent."
"Tell me about..." allows your clients to tell their story. They're less likely to leave out information when they're sharing their thoughts rather than being asked a series of scripted questions. "Tell me about..." is also beautiful because you don't need to know the exact question to ask - it allows you to get the conversation moving forward if you're aware there's an issue but you're not quite sure what it is.
To summarize, here are the five biggest mistakes agents make when qualifying sellers:
- They only ask surface questions - the same questions everyone asks.
- Their pace is off. They talk too fast or too slow, and don't match their speed to that of the seller.
- They take everything at face value because they listen to what is being said but don't hear the deeper part of the message.
- They allow the seller to the end conversation before itshould be ended and before they've obtained all the information they need.
- They hop in their car and immediately go to a seller's home without being properly prepared... and without qualifying the seller.
If you can learn to master seller qualification you'll go a long way toward understanding a client's concerns and motivation. That information is exactly what you need to determine if you want to work with the client and (assuming you do) how best to address client issues and position yourself as the agent of choice.
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry. With expertise in strategic marketing, business analysis, branding, new home project planning, product development, and agent/broker training, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things "real estate". With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.