Questions - NBT in real estate agent apps

Real Estate Agent with ReMax Realtec Group
Today I have been thinking about the NEXT BIG THING (NBT) in real estate agent apps. And on the art and craft of the good question.

Everyone knows about the mobile messaging app that sold for $19 billion. But have you heard about another amazing app—the one that helps you figure out what to do whenever you’re faced with a problem or a challenge? Doesn’t matter if it’s a business issue, a career decision, or a family dilemma: if you’ve mastered this app, you’re ready to tackle the problem. Did I mention it can also help you come up with brilliant ideas? Increases your chances of success? And may lead to wealth and happiness?

Here’s the best news about this app: you don’t have to acquire it, because you were born with it. The “app” in question is our aptitude for asking questions.

Why do so few people ask question?
Questions are the best way to gain deeper insights and develop more innovative solutions. So why do so few people utilize them?

Children learn by asking questions and if you have spent time around a four year old, "why's" can be a real test..

Students learn by asking questions.

New recruits learn by asking questions.

Innovators understand client needs by asking questions.

It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. People who think that they know it all no longer ask questions – why should they? "I know" is the most expensive words they own. It literally means they are UNTEACHABLE. "I know'" means I don't need to learn anything new.

Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights.

Think on this. Among the most innovation companies on earth, Google's leader shared the following:

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers.

Think on that.  Schmitd said and the actual heart of GOOGLE search engine is based on questions!

A good manager, broker, business owner, team leader, head of household,  should simply sit down with their people and ask a question, “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?”

Think on that. What if your open house, with a marketing purpose, presented that question to all who entered?
"What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?"
A buyer or seller can share directly with you EXACTLY how to make them a client. How to create your delineation product! How to get into the river of thought of citizens sharing the same need.

But the good question does not live in isolation. The good question has friends. But you must listen well.

Follow  this with another question, “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for home buyers and home owners?”

You will discover you will learn more from your citizen than they will learn from you.  The fact that you took time to question and then listen will earn enormous respect.

 Isaac Newton asked, “Why does an apple fall from a tree?” and, “Why does the moon not fall into the Earth?

“Why do the Galapagos islands have so many species not found elsewhere?” asked Darwin.  Einstein asked, “What would the universe look like if I rode through it on a beam of light?”

By asking they were able to start the process that lead to their tremendous breakthroughs.

We should ask the deep questions about the situations we face. It is the best way to get the information we need to make informed decisions and for sales people it is the single most important skill they need to succeed.

Why don’t we ask questions?

Why do we stop asking questions? If it is so obvious, such a crucial element of learning why don't we ask more questions?

Are some people to lazy to ask? Do they assume they know all the main things they need to know and they do not bother to ask more. They cling to their beliefs and remain certain in their assumptions.

Or, do some think by asking questions, they will look weak, ignorant or unsure. They like to give the impression that they are decisive and in command of the relevant issues. They fear that asking questions might introduce uncertainty or show them in a poor light. In fact asking questions is a sign of strength and intelligence – not a sign of weakness or uncertainty. Great leaders constantly ask questions and are well aware that they do not have all the answers.A great leader will say "I see you' in a meaningful, engaging way.

Questions are the manifestation of curiosity, the trademark of intelligence.

Are some people in such a hurry to get on with things that they do not stop to ask questions because it might slow them down? They risk rushing headlong into the wrong actions. You have seen that blank look from the home owner as they see ANOTHER 23 page CMA. Did you rush to the perception of a listing appointment without asking a question?

It does not matter with whom we speak, prospect, client, brother, sister, friend or associate, if we are willing to check assumptions, we can gain a better appreciation of the issues by first asking questions. 

Questions are the gateway the BIG CONVERSATIONS.

Start with very basic, broad questions, then move to a more specific area to clarify your understanding. Open questions are excellent - they give the other person or people a chance to give broad answers, to become more involved, more invested and they open up matters. 

Examples of open question a broker might ask those in the office:

  • What business are we really in?
  • What value do we add?
  • Why do you think this has happened?
  • What are all the things that might have caused this problem?
  • How can we reduce customer/agent complaints?
  • Why do you think the agent feels that way?
  • What other possibilities should we consider?

As we listen carefully to the answers we formulate further questions. When someone gives an answer we can often ask, “Why?” Or 'What is important about that to you?"

The great temptation is to plunge in with our opinions, responses, conclusions or proposals. The better approach is keep asking questions to deepen our comprehension of the issues before making up our mind. Once we have mapped out the main points we can use closed questions to get specific information.

Closed questions give the respondent a limited choice of responses – often just yes or no.

Examples of closed questions are:

  • When did this happen?
  • Was he angry?
  • What status is the contract right now?
  • Did you authorize the expenditure?
  • Would you like to go to the Active Rain meet-up with me on Friday?

By giving the other person a limited choice of responses we get specific information and deliberately move the conversation forward in a particular direction.

Care should be taken. When asking many questions it can make you appear to be inquisitorial and intrusive. Questions beginning with 'what' are always better than those beginning with 'why.'

So it is important to ask questions in a friendly and nonthreatening way. Do not ask accusing questions. “What do you think happened?” will probably get a better response than, “Are you responsible for this disaster?” Try to pose each question in a nonthreatening way and ensure that your body language is relaxed and amicable. Do not jab your finger or lean forward as you as present your requests.

Try to practice asking more questions in your everyday conversations. Instead of telling someone something, ask them a question. Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. Questions help us to teach as well as to learn. This 'hot new app,' the 'Next Big Thing (NBT) is yours, free to use, if only the desire existed.

Studies show we tend to hit our questioning peak around age 4 or 5, and then ask fewer questions as we get older. Not that we’ve lost the ability to question—we just don’t exercise it as much. We have been taught teachers and bosses generally want answers, not questions.

But it’s a mistake to let that question “app” go unused. Questioning can do as much for adults as for kids—helping us to explore, discover, and innovate. It’s no accident that many innovators and entrepreneurs are great questioners who use thoughtful inquiry to navigate uncertainty and find their way to breakthrough ideas and big payoffs. A number of the billion dollar tech start-ups, from Instagram to Nest, sprang from insightful questions raised and tackled by the founders.

The question is the embryo of greatness.


Good questioners try to look at the world with a curious, observant eye and a “beginner’s mind,” taking time to wonder about things others take for granted. And they’re not afraid to give voice to the most fundamental “why” questions—even though such questions can make the questioner seem naive. They are willing to risk appearing ridiculous so they may experience the miraculous. Wow!

Questions well presented dig beneath assumptions and conventional wisdom to try to get at a deeper truth and a possible untapped opportunity.

To question productively and “beautifully” is to inquire with direction and purpose—progressing from “Why” to “What if” to “How.” A questioner can move forward on almost any problem or challenge by first trying to understand it (Why is this a problem?) then imagining possible solutions (What if I came at the problem this way, or that way?) and finally trying to figure out practical ways to turn those "what-if" ideas and possibilities into realities. How might I actually begin to make this happen?


It’s not just about typing in a query on Google to get easy answers. Thoughtful, productive questioning is a process that takes time, considerable thought, and often hands-on experimentation. But if we’re willing to put in the effort to ask and act on better questions, it can help us work through thorny problems in business and everyday life, and can lead us to powerful insights and fresh possibilities. What’s the market value of an app that can do all that? I’d say it’s priceless.

So why don't we ask more questions?
Why do we jump to judgment without presenting a single question? Think on that.

The question is about innovation, creation, liberation, teaching, learning.  

 The question is the building block possessed in common by all those who create.

But there exists another dimension in questions.

Asking the HARD Questions!

Think of a conversation you've been putting off. Got it?

Great! Then let's get started.

There are dozens of those times when you know you should talk to someone, but you don't. Maybe you have tried and it went badly. Or maybe you fear that talking will only make the situation worse. Still, you feel stuck, and you would like to free up that stuck energy for more useful purposes. 

Following is a checklist of action items to think about before going into the conversation. Some useful concepts to practice during the conversation, and some tips and suggestions to help you stay focused and flowing towards the purpose, including possible conversation starters.

You have more power than you think regarding these difficult situations.

How to prepare for the HARD conversation

Ask yourself some questions.

  1. What is your purpose? What do you hope to accomplish? What would the ideal outcome look like? Do you have a hidden agenda? Hidden purposes? Often we think the goals are honorable, like educating or relationship building, only to realize your language is critical or condescending and worse judgmental. The outcome is punishing, not realizing the ideal outcome. If you "enter in" with judgment you will be rejected with resentment.
  2. Are you making assumptions about the others intentions? You may feel intimidated, belittled, ignored, disrespected or marginalized, but be cautious about assuming that this was the speakers intention. Impact does not equal intent.
  3. What about YOUR BUTTONS. What are the emotional buttons that can be pushed to ALWAYS get  a rise out of you? Do these make you more emotional than the situation warrants? What is your personal history, your back story that created these feelings? Go ahead with the conversation, but you will go in knowing that some of the heightened emotions has to do with you. Strong emotions from trigger buttons originate from within our shame centers. Knowing these shame centers exist is a giant step towards putting them to rest.
  4. What is your attitude, expectation, perception? What you think will be the reality.
  5. Who is the opponent? What might he be thinking about this situation? How do you think he perceives the situation? Is he aware?  His needs and fears? Solution he might suggest? Begin to re-frame the opponent as a partner. When we fail to do this we fall into the common error of simply not knowing HOW TO FIGHT RIGHT.
  6. What are your needs and fears? Anything common? Could there be?
  7. How have you contributed to the problem? How has the other person?

Now you are prepared to go to war the right way.
Now prepare to go to war,
not against the other person but TO FIGHT FOR THE OTHER PERSON.


Successful Outcomes for the "HARD CONVERSATION"
As mentioned earlier, the majority of the work in the conflict conversation is work you do on yourself. No matter how well the conversation begins, you will need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose and your emotional energy. Breathe, center, and continue to notice when you become off center - and choose to return again. This is where your power lies. By choosing the calm, centered state, you will help your opponent/partner to be more centered too. Centering is not a step: centering is how you are as you take the steps. 



Embrace, cultivate, encourage an attitude of discovery and curiosity. Pretend you don’t know anything about him. If you have been a consumer of gossip, you will find this pretending very difficult. Try to learn as much as possible about your opponent/partner and his point of view.

Pretend you’re entertaining a visitor from another planet, and find out how things look on that planet, how certain events affect the other person, and what the values and priorities are there. DO NOT CARRY OLD BAGGAGE FORWARD!

Pretend your partner/opponent really is from another planet. If so, you’d be watching his body language and listening for unspoken energy as well. Do that here. What does he really want? What is he not saying?

Patience is essential. Let your partner talk until he is finished. Don’t interrupt except to acknowledge. Whatever you hear, don’t take it personally. It’s not really about you. Try to learn as much as you can in this phase of the conversation. You’ll get your turn, but don’t rush things. This is all about the "I SEE You" principle.


Showing that you’ve heard and understood. Understand the other person so well you can make his argument for him. Then do it. Explain back to him what you think are his hopes and honor his position. He will not change unless he sees that you see where he stands. Then he might. No guarantees.

Acknowledge whatever you can, including your own defensiveness if it comes up. It’s fine; it just is. You can decide later how to address it. For example, in an argument with a friend, I said: “I notice I’m becoming defensive, and I think it’s because your voice just got louder and sounded angry. I just want to talk about this topic. I’m not trying to persuade you in either direction.” The acknowledgment helped him (and me) to re-center.

Acknowledgment can be difficult if we associate it with agreement. Keep acknowledgment and agreement separate. My saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean I’m going to go along with your decision.



When you sense your opponent/partner has expressed all his energy on the topic, it's your turn. Whoa, wait a minute. There is more.

What can you see from your perspective that he has missed? Help clarify your position without minimizing his.

For example: "From what you have told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I am not a team player. And I think I am. When I introduce problems with the CIS Score project, I'm thinking about its long-term success. I don't mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear."



Now you’re ready to begin building solutions. Brainstorming and continued inquiry are useful here. Ask your opponent/partner what he thinks might work. Whatever he says, find something you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to inquiry. Asking for the other’s point of view usually creates safety and encourages him to engage. If you’ve been successful in centering, adjusting your attitude, and engaging with inquiry and useful purpose, building sustainable solutions will be easy.

Sustainable is the outcome of warring FOR someone and not against them.


Practice, Practice, Practice

The art of the well crafted question is like any art–with continued practice you will acquire skill and ease. Pursuit of the goal, the vision, the greater purpose,journeys through novice to master craftsman. It is the master craftsman who is the creator, the maker of new things.

Here are some additional tips and suggestions:

  • A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say.
    How you are (centered, supportive, curious, problem-solving) will greatly influence what you say.
  • Acknowledge emotional energy–yours and your partner's–and direct it toward a useful purpose.
  • Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.
  • Don’t take verbal attacks personally.I know it is hard. Help your opponent/partner come back to center.
  • Don’t assume your opponent/partner can see things from your point of view.
  • Practice. Consider a trial run conversation with a friend before holding the real one.
  • Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome you want.

How Do I Begin? 

Here are a few conversation openers I’ve picked up over the years–and used many times!

  • I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.
  • I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.
  • I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)? If the person says, “Sure, let me get back to you,” follow up with him.
  • I think we have different perceptions about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.
  • I’d like to talk about ___________________. I think we may have different ideas about how to _____________________.
  • I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.

PS: "Centering" is the process of returning to that emotional, mental, physical state where one is experiencing rest/peace.


Returning to the 'art of the question' and how a question is the most incredible and powerful 'APP' available to each and everyone of us, let us engage in a small exercise.

You have a business to run, to grow, through which you are able to touch the lives of others in a deep in meaningful way. A recent survey revealed  over 60% of you wanted to have a product THIS YEAR that delineates you from other agents.

With delineation in mind, what question would YOU ask the citizen sitting across from you?

Would you ask, for EXAMPLE, one of the following: 
"What are your concerns about buying (or selling)?" 

"How can your home search be made easier?"
"What resource or tool would you like to help you?"
"What would make selling your home easier or more efficient?" 

Please place your question as a comment below.



Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Gabriel Misters 01/31/2016 04:21 AM
Real Estate Technology & Tools
real estate agent marketing
next big thing
annette lawence

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Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

And when we ask open ended questions and truly listen, that is when we begin to SEE, isn't it?

I think I spent the first decade or two of my adult life asking very few questions out loud for many reasons including extreme shyness, fear of looking like an idiot for not knowing something, and because I was told as a child NOT to question, just to do. It took me the next few decades to work through all those feelings and I can now ask questions when I have them. However, I could definitely use work asking questions differently and listening better. I need practice to be more effective with my own app.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Jan 26, 2016 08:19 PM #1
Annette Lawrence , Palm Harbor, FL 727-420-4041
ReMax Realtec Group - Palm Harbor, FL
Making FLORIDA Real Estate EZ

A cold day in Monroe NY is perfect for a thought-provoking post.

When the power of well crafted questions are understood we do listen better, watch more intently, because we want to see magic happen.

In the Six Word Memoir the speakers says, "Everyone has a story."

Good questions unlock the gold so many do not know they have. When that occurs and their step is lighter, that is when the power of a good question is most rewarding.

Jan 26, 2016 09:15 PM #2
Gabriel Misters
HomeSmart Realty Group - Orland Park, IL
'Half man & Half amazing working for you'

Very good reading Annette....Thanks

Jan 31, 2016 04:20 AM #3
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Annette - Not only is it important that we ask questions, but how we ask them as well. Thanks for sharing this post.

Jan 31, 2016 05:46 PM #4
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Annette Lawrence , Palm Harbor, FL 727-420-4041

Making FLORIDA Real Estate EZ
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