So, you think you are in sales? What is sales?
THE COMMON ANSWER: “I am selling myself”. An agent gathers as much information about themselves as they can and is told to make it into a fancy book. If you are trying to get listings, you were probably told that you should create a listing presentation, which includes a listing book. It should have your photo and long winded bio, as well as company information and a photo of your team. You should also include testimonials about how great you are and stats bragging about how many millions of dollars of real estate you have sold. Ummmm… stop showing off. Who cares?
You were probably also told that you are supposed to buy scripts and then study them so you know them by heart. I think the script is supposed to be your sales pitch so you can brag about yourself, how great you are and what an amazing job you can do. All by memory, and all exactly the same no matter who you are talking to. Scripts are creepy and weird and they sound fake and they piss me off. If someone calls me or tries to “help” me and I hear a script, I turn off. Done. Automatically. I am a person with needs and wants and if the salesperson can only start using a canned conversation with me, I am embarrassed for them and insulted and I can’t get away fast enough.
MY ANSWER: If you ask ME what sales is, my answer is quite different. Sales is simply solving a problem. And here’s the fun fact: I can’t know what problem I am solving until I ask what the problem is. It is quite simple. If I walk into a person’s home and they told me they wanted to sell, that is just the beginning of the story. I don’t know why they really called me or what their motivation is until I ask them.
When I meet with a seller I start off by asking them questions.
I begin the conversation by asking them about their house and why they want to sell. As the conversation begins to unfold, I will start to understand why they called me. You see, sometimes people think they need to sell because they are behind on the mortgage or the house needs work and they don’t have the money to fix it. These are cases where there might be a better option than listing the property, and if I claim to do my job well, I should have alternative solutions to offer other than listing the property. If the seller is truly motivated and wants to sell the house, then my job is to ask lots and lots of questions. Here are a few starter questions to begin the conversation:
- Why are you looking to sell?
- Where are you planning to go? This answer will help with timing.
- What is your daily life like? We need to figure out how to make the property most accessible for showing.
- Besides price, what is important to you?
Working with sellers and getting the job are acquired skills after lots of practice, and listing leads are harder to come by than buyer leads. So how are you supposed to get practice, and how are you supposed to get leads?
- Until you have clients to work with, ask to shadow someone in your office who is a heavy lister. Follow them on appointments and watch carefully how it is done, then ask lots of questions after the appointment.
- Ask your Broker for help and training, and then role play with another agent in your office. Practice being the seller and being the agent over and over again so you get comfortable answering whatever questions come your way.
- Keep in touch with all of your past Buyer clients. On average, people move every 3 to 7 years. Stay with them throughout the cycle so you have a shot at the listing when they sell.
- Go search for problems so you can solve them. One of the best sources for sellers with a problem is to look at FSBOs. (For Sale By Owners)
Do you have this tool in your tool belt?
You may have heard that listing FSBOS are a great lead source, but how are you supposed to close the deal? How do you approach the seller? Because if you are calling them, then you’re not the only one. What do you have to offer that other agents don’t? If you want to list, why would a seller choose you over the other agent?
How to speak to Owners. The truth.
Let’s be honest and admit that the internet has leveled the playing field for marketing property. Anyone can post a listing on Zillow and get exposure for free. An agent has the added channel of the MLS, and that is worthwhile, but it is not impossible to sell a property without it. So when a property owner believes they can market their property and find a buyer themselves, why do we waste time trying to convince them otherwise? If you want to go after FSBOs, instead of selling a service that the client doesn’t need or want, why not ask them what they do need and see if you have anything to offer them.
Ask Them This:
Why did you choose to sell it on your own? Agents often avoid this question because they think they already know that the answer. Not every seller chooses to sell on their own because of money. It is your job to find out why so you can offer them a service that they might actually need.
The secret sauce: EA
One of the best tools to have access to is the Exclusive Agency Listing. In case you don’t recall this from class, an EA differs from the Exclusive Right to Sell in that it allows the seller to sell on his own without having to pay you a commission. Many brokers discourage use of this contract because it doesn’t guarantee a commission in all cases, but I encourage its use in certain instances, and here is why:
If I meet a FSBO and they agree to cooperate with Brokers but are hesitant to list and make a commitment, this contract allows them the freedom to still market it on their own while leveraging the power of your experience and the MLS. Chances are, I am going to sell the property for them, at better price and terms than they could have negotiated on their own and I am going to walk them through the process, making it smooth and relatively painless. This is doing a service for the seller as well as earning me a commission. In the case where the seller sells it herself and I don’t earn a commission, I still have business benefits that make it worth my while.
- Exposure from my sign
- Exposure from my listing and marketing
- Buyer leads that the listing generated
If the seller finds his own buyer, I can offer to be transaction licensee. I let the buyer and seller negotiate the terms of the sale and I simply write up the contract and get them through the process to settlement. This is non representation, so there is no agency. I charge a fee to complete the transaction.
Exclusive Agency and Transaction Licensee are just two more tools I add to my toolbelt. The more tools I have, the better equipped I am to help a potential client and to build my business. I also have plenty of others, such as automated showings, lockboxes, and agents who can show the property.
Real estate is a people business. We are dealing with real human beings who have needs and wants and problems for us to solve. When we think of them first as people instead of dollar signs, it becomes much clearer how to act and what to say. We find that we don’t need to rely on scripts or to “always be closing”. Rather than looking within and projecting ourselves onto our clients, let’s step back and ask them what they need and let the conversation flow form there.
It takes time and practice to be able to find a way to solve the problems, needs and wants of potential sellers. Training and role play is a great way to get ready to meet with real people. See if your office offers training in this, or offer to shadow a listing agent in your office to see how they do it. Also, feel free to post your comments or questions below.
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