By Ross Wilson
“When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity.” – Martha Beck
Home hunters contact you for one chief reason – curiosity. It’s an extremely powerful motivator, but intrinsically short-lived. Once satisfied, they no longer need you. You have a tiny window of opportunity to connect in a meaningful way before the phone call ends. (It’s no different with an email or text inquiry; how you respond is critical. I’ll address this aspect in my next column.) Thus, you’d better be prepared. Have something scripted and well practiced in advance. For many reasons, callers are often not interested in the advertised property. Therefore, be familiar with local listing inventory and have the details of alternate properties at your finger-tips.
When your phone rings, identify yourself by name and immediately ask for theirs. First names are acceptable and subliminally perceived as friendlier and less of a commitment. Sprinkle the conversation with their name because a name has magical powers. Have you ever been called over the drone of a crowd? We’re instinctively drawn to familiarity. The bonding process begins with the exchange of basic info, directly and indirectly. Theory goes that if you give them something, they may be inclined to return the favour. It’s a trade.
Thank them for calling and ask how you can help. If they ask the whereabouts of the property, tell them the town or neighbourhood, not the specific address, and immediately ask if that’s where they prefer to live.
If they answer yes, you’ve got a good prospect because they’ve begun to give you information. They’ve also confirmed their intention to buy and aren’t “just looking”. Answering a question with a question instead of an answer is patently evasive and potentially offensive. If that happens, you’re toast. Briefly respond to their question and follow-up with your question. (For a sample conversation, refer to my book, The Happy Agent.)
Early in the conversation, ask if they have an agent. If so, ask if they’ve entered into a buyer representation agreement and if applicable, if their home is listed. If they’re under contract, the call can end quickly, but professionally. Be courteous, answer questions and ask if you can email listing details to their agent. If they’re not committed to another agency, then continue with your dialogue.
After you’ve sent the first email, don’t forget to call to confirm that they gave accurate contact information, that they received the listings and to ask for feedback. The follow-up is an ideal time to learn more about them and strengthen your bond. A second exchange means you’re no longer strangers, so it’ll be more relaxed.
During the initial call, if you’re able to confirm a personal consultation appointment, detailed questions can await that meeting. If not, take your best shot on the phone. Engage them in conversation and give something of value, such as key benefits of the home or of working with you.
Convincing them to have enough faith in you to officially hire you usually occurs in baby steps. If you fail to take that first step, you’ve wasted your resources. Talk with them and demonstrate genuine interest by actively listening. You’re learning about them, and by responding to your questions, they’re learning about and investing in you too. Every minute you share on the phone adds to the natural conclusion that they’ll work with you. What else could happen? They’ve calmly conveyed their requirements, one at a time, to help you help them. Giving you their contact info and acknowledging informal representation is almost anticlimactic. Remember – you’re not trying to convince them to buy; you’re initially selling yourself, building rapport. Earn their respect. Gain their confidence and the rest is simpler.
Polish comes with experience. Since practice makes perfect, using a script, rehearse different scenarios with your spouse, a friend or colleague. Ask your role-playing partner to change their level of co-operation from easy to challenging to obnoxious. Eventually, you’ll be an expert at handling anybody.
The longer you can comfortably keep them on the phone, the more likely you’ll establish the beginnings of a good relationship and convert them from caller to prospect to client. But you must take that first baby step to building faith. In the next column, I’ll address how to improve your prospect-to-client conversion ratio from an internet inquiry.