The art of questioning

March/April 2017 edition
There’s an old saying: If you want better answers, ask better questions. Asking the right questions to uncover your client’s motivation can make all the difference. Here’s how.

By Michael Sheargold

As an agent, your role is to help your clients achieve their real estate goals and for this to happen you need to uncover exactly what those goals are. By asking the right questions you can uncover the information you need to create the best experience and results for your clients – and set yourself apart as an exceptional agent.
When asked why they chose a particular agent, clients often say: “They really understood what I’m looking for and what I want to achieve.” The average agent tends to ask fewer questions. An exceptional agent asks lots of questions! By mastering the art of questioning, you can become an exceptional agent and you’ll build a faster rapport, greater connection and stronger relationship with your clients.

From the beginning, you need to engage the right mindset. To find someone interesting, you need to be interested. Many agents go into a conversation with a client or potential client with a ‘what do I need to tell them to convince them to do business with me?’ mindset, rather than an ‘I’m focusing my attention on helping them achieve their goals’ mindset.

Remember, the questions you ask and the words you use have a profound impact on how you make your clients feel.

Discovery quest
Questioning is a discovery process and the key benefit of asking the right questions is learning what your clients need from you and how you can best help them.

At the start of a client relationship, you want to create rapport and allow your clients to feel comfortable with you. The more relaxed they feel, the more open they’ll be when sharing their thoughts with you – and when you know more, you can deliver more.

Before you start asking questions, you need to be crystal clear about what exactly it is you want to discover. When you know what you want to learn from a client, asking the right questions becomes easier.

If you’re talking to someone who is thinking of selling, you might want to know things like why they’re selling, the timing they have in mind, their criteria for choosing an agent, their thoughts about property marketing and what their plans are after the sale.

In the case of a potential buyer, it would be great to find out how long they’ve been looking, whether they’ve seen any properties they really like, have they made any bids or offers yet, what stage they’re at in the process and how quickly they want to make it happen.

When you know what you want to learn from a client, asking the right questions becomes easier.

If you’re new to the business, developing buyer and seller profiles with the key information you want to gain can be a great tool. These profiles will help you stay on track and act as a checklist.

Some clients may not want to let you know everything about themselves up front, but you can put them at ease by simply saying: “The reason I’m asking you these questions is so I can best guide you on your property journey and help you achieve your property goals.” 

At this stage of your relationship, the more knowledge you have, the better you can help your clients and create a great outcome for both of you.

Uncovering buyer motivation
By tapping into buyer motivations, you’re tuning into what they need so you can lead them toward their goal. So how do you do it?

Think about how you interact with potential buyers at an open home. You might ask: “Do you have any interest in this property?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?” Some buyers will simply say “no” and walk away. They don’t know you and they might be feeling a bit intimidated or confused.

The way you frame your response will help you to uncover their motivation. Ask something like: “Out of interest, can I ask you a couple of questions?”

If they say “yes”, you can then ask questions designed to build rapport and understand their needs, and to find out what they’re looking for, whether they’re ready to buy or are still in the research phase.

The key to questioning is to turn it into a conversation and by asking soft questions, you can keep it casual. Here’s how it might go.

“What was it about this property that made you come along today?” Listen to their response. React to their response.

“So you’re in the market to buy? Or are you still researching?” Again, listen to their response. Hear what they’re saying.

“Where are you currently living?” “Out of interest, if you found your ideal property, are you able to move quickly?” You never know what you’ll find out.

Based on the answers they give, you may be able to let them know about another listing you have that might be of interest to them. Or they may be ready to list their property for sale and are in the process of looking for an agent. The bottom line is that if you ask good questions, you’ll uncover so much more – but you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

But beware. If you ask too many questions, it may start to feel more like an interrogation.

Power lies in implementation
Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised at how much information these simple strategies will help you uncover. Yes, it will depend on the number of people you have at your open homes whether you go into questioning mode at the open or when you follow up by phone. Either way, based on the notes you’ve taken, you can pick up the conversation where it left off and continue building the relationship.

The ultimate goal is to deliver a great service and, in the process, uncover your clients’ motivation – which will, ultimately, help you to understand them. When you take this approach, you’ll quickly build a reputation for being an exceptional agent. And the key to long-term success in this business is having people in the market singing your praises!

You may have heard me say before: “the power of an idea is in its implementation.” It’s true – and now you have the knowledge, so put it into practice. Connect with your clients, create rapport with them, listen to their responses and deliver what they want. It’s an important key to unlock a new level of performance in you.

Remember, the best way to get what you want is to help your clients get what they want. So the main benefit in asking the right questions is helping you to achieve your clients’ goals.

A shopping list of questions
  • Tell me a bit more about yourself?
  • What is your current situation?
  • What are you aiming to achieve?
  • What is your timeframe?
  • Do you have finance in place?
  • What is your ideal outcome?
  • What is your ideal property goal?
  • Can you move quickly if the right opportunity presents itself?
  • Are there any deal breakers?
  • How would you like the process to go?
  • Have you bought or sold a property recently?
  • How would you describe your recent buying/selling experiences?
  • What is your decision process?
  • What do you expect from an agent?