Rules for CORE Agents #7: Talk Less, Listen More

Real estate agents talk too much.  It’s sort of an occupational hazard.  The whole industry has bought into the idea, for example, of a listing “presentation” as the cornerstone of the industry. That’s why agents get sucked into doing these hourlong “presentations” where they yammer on and on about their 27 point marketing programs and their awards and their testimonials and all the comps they found on their CMA.  That’s the industry-approved way to win over a client’s trust and get a listing.

Other professions don’t do it that way.  You don’t walk into a doctor’s office for a 45-minute soliloquy about his educational credentials and how his patients don’t die as much as other doctors.  You don’t meet a lawyer and get a long powerpoint slideshow about how all her other clients think she’s swell.  And it’s not just high-status professionals like doctors and lawyers.  Plumbers don’t give “presentations” to convince you to hire them.  Hair stylists don’t use powerpoint.  Even in our own industry, you don’t see loan officers, inspection engineers, or anyone else involved in a real estate transaction giving a “presentation” the way that real estate agents have been taught to do.

Other professionals don’t do presentations, they do consultations. They ask you questions. They find out what the problem is.  They find out what you need, and then they explain what they can do to help. They ask questions, and they listen.  They understand that listening is the best way to establish rapport with a client, to elicit trust and confidence.  The more a client talks, the more she confides in you, the more she opens up, then the more she trusts you.   It’s also, of course, the very best way to find out the client’s needs, wants, and desires. Every client is different, but you can’t figure out what this individual client needs if you’re just talking all the time about yourself.

So stop giving presentations.  They’re boring.  They put too much pressure on you to “perform.”  Most importantly, they’re ineffective at establishing trust and rapport.  Instead, give your client a listing “consultation.”  Rather than starting off by talking about yourself and what you can do, ask questions.  Find out what the client is most concerned about in selling or buying a home.  Identify needs, wants, and desires.  That will not only help you develop rapport, but you’ll be able to tailor your discussion of what you can offer to what the client is actually looking for.

And it’s not just in listing presentations.  In general, you should spend less time talking and more time listening.  When you’re on Facebook, spend 90% of your time commenting and “liking” other people’s posts, rather than just making your own. When you meet someone at a cocktail party, the best way to develop rapport with them is just to ask them questions and listen.  Ironically enough, the more attention you pay to other people, the more they will notice you.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.


Giving our clients good pricing advice

A year ago, I was in car accident. I was on Kinderkamack road in Emerson, and stopped because a line of geese were crossing the road (new rule: drive over the geese), and a woman who apparently wasn’t paying such careful attention smashed into the back of my car.  She pretty much destroyed the rear end of my car, virtually totaling it.  It took about three months to get the car fixed, and I had some residual neck pain for a few months.

Being a litigious sort, since I’m an attorney, my thoughts naturally turned to whether I had a claim against her for liability.  Three months of not having a car, an increase in my insurance rates (even though the accident was clearly not my fault), and some personal injury.  I would have thought it was worth something.  So I called a few attorney friends, including my cousin John Rand, a crack personal injury attorney in White Plains.

In about a 20-minute conversation, he explained to me that I didn’t have a case.  Something about New York’s and New Jersey’s no-fault policy for these types of auto accidents.  So I dropped the issue.

I thought about that recently when I was talking to some agents about how they help a client price a home.  When a seller comes to an agent for advice about selling a home, one of the biggest concerns is the price — the seller obviously wants to get the highest price possible.  Often, the agent is in the position that my cousin John was in, delivering some bad news about the viability of those hopes.  Just like John had to tell me that I didn’t have a legal claim despite my injuries, an agent has to explain to a seller the realities of the housing market.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy telling a client what she doesn’t want to hear.  And I think that in a lot of cases, agents aren’t able to do the job they’re supposed to do in helping their client understand the realities of the situation.  John would not have done me any favors if he had told me I had a viable case, and then induced me to spend time and money pursuing it.  Similarly, an agent doesn’t do her client any favors when she allows that seller to price the home at an unsustainable level.  The home isn’t going to sell, and the client isn’t going to have a good experience.

Why do we do that? Maybe it’s because we naturally shy away from being pegged with that stereotype that all real estate agents want to do is underprice their listings to get a quick sale.  Maybe we’re defensive about presenting a price. Or maybe it’s just because sellers don’t trust their broker to give them solid advice and counsel the way that I trusted my attorney to give me his advice.

Whatever it is, we do our sellers a disservice when we allow them to overprice their homes.  We’re not helping them, or, for that matter, ourselves.

So what do we do?  I’m working on a pricing presentation that tries to educate and explain the fundamentals of pricing to a seller, in the interests of actually doing our job.  If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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