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RISMEDIA, March 21, 2007-At every phase of a real estate transaction, questions are keys in learning motivations, building rapport, and identifying needs that help the good associate create solutions. Effective (not manipulative or leading) questioning is an art form that requires practice, but there are some basics that almost always apply:

– Be sure to involve all parties in the questions as a form of respect, in order to get different viewpoints, and because you may not really know who the decision-maker is.
– Ask open-ended questions whenever possible (who, what, where, when, why, how) rather than yes or no questions.
– Practice "active listening" by paying attention to the question rather than thinking ahead to the next question; let each answer lead you to the next question.
– Demonstrate that you are truly interested with your demeanor and body language.

The prospecting stage is the first opportunity to ask questions that allow the associate to engage the seller by beginning to build rapport and discern whether the prospect has a need for the associate's services.

In this initial contact stage, it is unlikely that the associate will capture a listing. The goal is just to engage the prospect in conversation rather than moving right into a real estate sales presentation. The first sale is selling the associate him/herself, and only after there is a comfort level there can the process move on to whether the individual is a potential seller and whether the associate has the right abilities to help that seller find a buyer for the home.

In this initial "building rapport" stage, the successful associate projects a genuine interest in the client, is sensitive to that person's style and adapts his/her behavior accordingly. This lays the groundwork for a successful relationship. It does not mean that the associate should change his or her personality to accommodate the seller. Rather, it means that the associate is customer-focused enough to adapt to the pace and behavioral preferences of the seller, sending a signal that this is about the seller, not the associate. This getting-acquainted step provides important background information about clients, their behavioral styles, and their circumstances, and enables the associate to move on to a meaningful needs-assessment interview.

In preparation for that important conversation, which might occur in the latter part of the first contact, or during a face-to-face meeting, there are some important things an associate can do.

1. The associate should evaluate his or her phone voice if the approach is to be by telephone. Many individuals have a lower voice on the phone. Taping a phone conversation to hear how he or she is projecting over the phone can be very helpful in making the necessary modifications.

2. It is essential that the associate put thought into developing the right questions beforehand, and writing them down This ensures that the associate remembers to get the answers needed to fill the seller's needs and allows the associate's mind the freedom of thought to explore further as the conversation evolves. Einstein said, "Never memorize anything that you can look up." With preprinted questions the associate is not contemplating what question to ask next but instead can be effectively listening and responding to what the seller is presenting.

Transitional comments/questions, once the initial rapport is established, may vary depending on the circumstances (cold telephone call, conversation at a cocktail party or church get-together, "warm call" in which the seller's name has been given to the associate by a mutual acquaintance, conversation in the grocery line triggered by associate's name badge, etc.)

Some examples might be:
There has been a lot of activity in your neighborhood over the past year, so I seem to be getting more and more questions about home values in the area.

It's interesting why different people decide to sell their homes … nowadays I'm seeing some baby boomers actually buying larger homes rather than downsizing, and others are moving to small condos in order to invest in a large second home that the extended family can enjoy.

Even people who aren't necessarily in the market to buy or sell a home seem to be interested in how their homes are appreciating, so I try to provide updates on those trends for homeowners in this area.

This article is courtesy of the Seller Agency Council, managers of the sought-after ASR (Accredited Seller Representative) course and designation.

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