The savvy Realtor will continually evaluate his or her own performance. How am I doing? What could I be doing better? What do I need to learn? Question yourself from the perspective of self-improvement—not self-incrimination. And when you’re done with those questions, here are ten more that will open up new perspectives and new opportunities: five you should ask your client and five that your client should ask you (and you better have good answers!)
5 Questions to Ask Your Client
- What are your objectives? If a client is listing a property with you, you need to know the end game. Are they looking for a quick sale? Maximum selling price? Minimal intrusion into their daily lives during the selling process? If you’re representing buyers, you need to know in detail what is important to them. Proximity to schools or transportation may be a priority. They may be looking for quiet streets or playmates for their kids. Or maybe they crave the challenge of a distressed property or fixer-upper. Make sure everyone is aligned toward the same goal.
- What has been your past experience working with Realtors? Find out what the client did or didn’t like during previous transactions. If he or she complains that the last Realtor never returned phone calls, you need to knock yourself out to be available. If the last Realtor seemed overloaded or distracted, you’ll give them your full attention when you’re together. The answer to this question will tell you how to keep the client happy and what pitfalls to avoid.
- Are you planning a lifestyle change? Sometimes the answer is “no.” A client may be looking to duplicate a situation where they have felt comfortable and happy in the past. Whether it’s a tree-lined street, a close-knit community, or a room with a view, the answer to this question will provide clues that will help you eliminate unsuitable deals before they get started. However, if you’re working with seniors who are downsizing, they are facing the emotional challenge of letting go of “stuff,” a lifetime of memories. And an upwardly mobile single may secretly long for a home that says “family.” Be prepared to deal with emotional issues ahead of time.
- What did you like (and not like) about your last home? Barbara’s Realtor showed her a dozen properties with no success until Barbara finally confessed she hated any house that didn’t have a distinctly separate entry or foyer. She hated opening the front door directly into the living room. Some clients may crave a big open family room, or a floor plan with a master suite that’s far, far away from teenagers’ bedrooms.
- Who will be the decision-maker? In almost any family dynamic, one person has more influence over the final decision than the others. Find out early on who that is—because that’s who you’ll be selling to. There’s no point pitching the favorable owner financing to Joe if Patty handles the family’s finances. And there’s no point telling Patty about the brand new paint job if Joe is planning to redo the whole house.
5 Questions Your Client Should Ask You
- Tell me some of your recent success stories. The client is looking for something he or she can relate to. It’s not enough that you were the top lister in your firm last month. What have you sold, and for how much? Did your last buyer post a rave review on your Facebook page, and why? Be prepared with parallels between what this client wants and what you’ve done recently.
- Who will I be working with? It’s not uncommon for one person in a firm or team to do the “selling” of clients and then pass the client off to someone else to manage the day-to-day buying or selling process. If this is the way your firm is organized, explain the rationale up front. “I oversee the listing part of the process but Sally is the real expert at finding the right buyers. And everyone on the team is available to you whenever you have a question.” Provide full contact information for all team members, including email addresses and cell phone numbers.
- Can I speak with other clients? This may or may not be according to your policy. At the very least, you should have a portfolio of written testimonials. And you may have advocates who are willing to speak on your behalf, or references from reputable sources in the business community.
- How do you use social media? More and more, buyers and sellers alike expect their Realtors to be social-media-savvy. This doesn’t mean that you have a Facebook page and a Twitter account where you occasionally post a new listing. It does mean that you know how to create a professional video tour, use Pinterest and Instagram to promote your listings, and provide up-to-date market information via your website, blog, and Facebook page.
- What other services do you offer? In addition to the standard buying and selling functions, many Realtors provide ancillary services such as home staging, estate sales, and first-time buyer seminars. Be sure to let your clients know that you either provide these services or have ready referrals to appropriate resources.
Buying or selling a home is one of the most emotionally grueling processes that anyone will experience. It involves money, memories, and a host of other challenges that have the potential to either derail the entire process or create a client for life. Ask the right questions and be prepared with the right answers and you’ll pass the pop quiz with flying colors.
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