Curt Fletcher, author of How to Sell More Homes and Increase Your Income (AuthorHouse, 2007), responds to your questions about generating more business.
What should you do if you’ve been working with clients for a few months and every time it gets close to a final sale, they have an excuse? Do you have any advice for preventing clients from stringing you along and not making a move?
FLETCHER: This is a very good question and also a common occurrence. The first thing you should do is ask them for a commitment or closing question. When you receive the excuse or objection, determine if the objection is a real issue or simply a request for more information.
To do this, I would use a simple questioning technique like this:
Cushion the objection.
Clarify the objection (This is a must before responding).
Question (Make sure you know the proper objection).
Confirm (Confirm that your solution works … do not assume it does).
If you still are not making any progress, I would make sure you have discovered their real buying motives. Simply meaning, sit down with them and go over (again) the needs they have for their new home. Perhaps something has changed or something was not understood correctly.
How can you convince sellers that it’s better to sell this year than wait until the market picks up again?
FLETCHER: There is no guarantee that the market will be better or worse next year. I would go over the cost of waiting with them. If the market improves, what are the interest rates going to be? Lower? I doubt it. If they wait and their home value decreases, what was the cost of not selling then?
Often times, when you can gain an advantage by selling at a higher price, it is offset by the cost of buying also being higher and the rates being higher.
How can you give a property that has been sitting on the market for awhile a new life and get it some buyer attention?
FLETCHER: This is one of the more difficult scenarios, but it is very possible! Urgency is the key with a home like this. The first thing to do, is build up the curb appeal. Plant some fresh flowers, get the grass looking green and freshly cut. Maybe the home needs a fresh paint color for the garage or the siding. Nothing extremely expensive, but enough to make it “Pop!”
Then, to build urgency, I would create some buzz with a promotional campaign that emphasizes “act now.” That means there must be a “perceived” benefit to the buyer. Perhaps it is a one-weekend only discount or a one-day only closing incentive. Perhaps it is an agent bonus that expires if the home does not close by a certain day.
In the vocabulary glossary at the end of your book, you offer advice on words to use and not use with clients. Why are words like “house”, “contract,” “appointment,” and even “sell/sold” so bad?
FLETCHER: It isn’t that those words are bad, they are just not emotional. People buy with emotion and justify the decision with logic. The word “house” has no meaning. It is sticks and bricks or something that belongs to someone else, but a “home” is emotional. It is where you find peace, relaxation, and enjoyment. A home contains memories and invokes them as well.
The word “contract” is scary. It implies signing your life away! Whereas an agreement is pleasant and easy. Most people enjoy agreements, but fear contracts.
“Appointment” is a word that renders visions of the dentist or a doctor’s appointment … not very pleasant thoughts. However, a “meeting” is relaxed and enjoyable.
The words “sell / sold” are not good for a couple reasons. People do not like to be sold anything, but they love to buy or acquire things. “Salespeople” get a bad rap because there are some that are slimy and pushy.
What do you think is one of the best uses of marketing dollars right now that can give you a good return?
FLETCHER: Without a doubt, I would say your sphere of influence. I would spend my dollars with people that already know me, like me, and understand me. This means referral based marketing.
Offer rebates / gift cards for recommendations. Perhaps a dinner at a favorite location.
Marketing to the masses right now will not bring a great return on investment. I would keep it focused and targeted at people that are willing and able to help you.
Do you have any tips for working with difficult clients? Should you just walk away or is there a way to still work with buyers who always have objections?
FLETCHER: In many cases clients are difficult only until that moment when they realize that you truly care about their best interest. When that moment happens, they drop their guard and all their defense mechanisms and let you “in” to their real situation.
Objections often times are simply a defense or escape mechanism used to avoid commitment. If a client is a “true” buyer or seller, they will let their guard down if you provide value to them first.
Keep working with these buyers, but don’t focus on the buying or selling. Focus on them only. Discover the “emotional motives” that has brought them to a buying or selling situation. The home details will come later.
Is it really possible to increase your income in a slower market?
FLETCHER: Without a doubt, YES! Slow markets are the breeding ground for the top professionals. This is the perfect opportunity to gain market share for you. Let the other people focus on all the negatives. If you keep positive and really help people, you will gain more and more clients by simply being positive in the face of all the negativity. I promise!
How should you go about qualifying a buyer?
FLETCHER: It is important to determine several factors. These factors include timeframes for buying or selling, affordability and comfort ability.
I say comfort ability because your client may be able to afford “x”, but may only be willing to invest “y.” Making assumptions based on pay stubs or W-2’s is not a good recipe.
Many real estate professionals tend to overanalyze, “curb qualify”, or make false assumptions. Don’t do any of the three and you will see the benefits.
You are a professional that has a goal of providing value to your client; therefore, it is acceptable to ask them these questions. However, asking someone about their finances is not something that should be done before you have built rapport and have their confidence or you will fall into the non-caring pushy real estate basket.
Ask when they would like to move into their home or sell their existing home. Find out where they would like to keep a monthly investment. Determine what kind of initial investment they want to make. Ask simple, easy to understand questions after you have earned their confidence.
What are some good rapport-building questions or topics to discuss when you first meet prospects and you’re trying to gain their trust?
FLETCHER: This is the part where you get to show off your amazing personality! In rapport building the key is to ask questions about your clients … and listen to the answers. Do not wait to speak. Really listen!
Do not talk about yourself, talk about them. People love to talk about themselves and their children. Avoid scripting and other such techniques. They don’t work!
Be yourself. Talk to your clients like you do your best friend. Ask them interesting questions. The goal here is to gain confidence and discover their “emotional hot buttons”.
You will very seldom discover their “true” emotional hot buttons without building rapport and trust. Don’t talk sticks and bricks or room counts. If someone says they want a big open kitchen, don’t assume anything. Ask them why and how they want to use it. Do they cook? If so, what is their favorite dish? Find out how they live in the home and spend their time there. They want to tell you … if you will let them!
You recommend having a story about your community to share with buyers. Do you have an example of what type of community stories buyers would be attracted to?
FLETCHER: This is where you get to share your expertise and knowledge. At this time, you can also tie back their emotional buying needs to a particular community. The key here is to have listened closely while you built rapport and trust.
Many real estate professionals work in a certain market niche. You need a target area that you have become well acquainted and know everything about. Focus on this area for your clients. It is hard to be an expert on every location.
This is basically a short story that builds excitement, urgency, and curiosity all based on their hot buttons. I have included a few samples that I have used in the past in my book.
Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.