Master the Art of Asking Questions

November 10, 2017

Meetings with clients should be conversations rather than interrogations. Agents can always be asking open-ended questions to solicit more than a yes or no response. But John Asher, author of Close Deals Faster and CEO of Asher Strategies, has more concrete ways you can train your agents to be tactful interviewers, starting with active listening.

Active listening is listening with the intent to understand, as opposed to passive listening, which is listening with the intent to respond. Most agents are probably thinking about what they’re going to say next while clients are talking. This mistake removes the focus from getting to know clients and what their goals are.

Passive listening can be useful in focusing on technical details, Asher says, but active listening is important during conversations where the buyer needs aren’t clear on the surface. “Sometimes these only come out in the open after multiple conversations,” he says.

Come to a meeting prepared with written questions so that you’re not constantly thinking about what you’re going to say or ask next. Good open-ended questions often begin with, “Could you tell me…?” Asher suggests. If the conversation goes in a different direction, go with the client’s interests and circle back if you need to, he says.

Agents should never interrupt clients. Let the other person talk, Asher says, and guide the conversation as you uncover more information. “Be in the moment and avoid thinking of the ‘perfect’ property after hearing only a few needs,” he says.

A helpful tactic is to ask clients for permission to take notes, which will help the agent remember the conversation and create a record of what is said. Bullet-style notes are helpful so that the agent can summarize details back to the client. “You’ll either be right or they will correct you. In either case, you now have a positive and collaborative communication going on,” Asher says. “Once they’ve stopped [talking], ask them, ‘Is there anything else I need to know?’ At this point, they’ll likely tell you something personal that’s vital to coming to agreement.”

—Erica Christoffer, REALTOR® Magazine