Peter Murray, ABR, PSA, is a sales associate with RE/MAX Results in Frederick, Md.
Dos and Don'ts to Win the Listing
I had no idea how to handle my first seller lead. I failed to get the business, and here’s what I learned from that experience.
March 2, 2017
I remember when I received my first listing lead. It quickly became clear that the seller was uninformed about the process of selling a home, and I had little training on what to do or say in this situation. So, I did everything wrong.
From what I could gather during our phone call, the seller had moved out of state with her boyfriend, they had dogs (there was a lot of barking on the phone), and they were in some sort of financial distress. The seller couldn’t meet with me in person and didn’t want to provide me access to her property so I could see its condition. Still, I didn’t know any better, and I said I would prepare a listing presentation.
I used a broad set of search criteria to research comparable homes, and once I gathered them, I emailed the seller a fancy market analysis document with colorful graphics, including my portrait and company logo. Then I called the seller to discuss what I had found.
The conversation was all over the place, and I had no idea how to steer it. I went on tangents about the real estate market where she lived—not where she was selling—air conditioners, and any other random topic where I thought my knowledge might impress her. I then thanked the prospective seller for her time and hung up, completely forgetting to ask for the listing and inquire about next steps. On top of that, I never pushed for the opportunity to walk through the property or meet the seller in person to shake her hand—two of the most important steps. I never heard from her again, and I never followed up to see if her home was eventually listed with another agent.
I’ve learned a few lessons since then about how to land a listing.
What I did wrong: The search terms I used to scour the MLS for comparable properties was too broad, and I consistently overthought every step of the process. I often never met or made plans to meet a seller and have a real, intimate conversation about their needs before compiling a CMA and emailing it to them. I didn’t give them a chance to get to know their would-be agent—and vice versa—before trying to sell them on my services.
How I fixed it: When searching comps, I stick to the subdivision in which the prospect is selling, if possible, to draw the most relevant results; search only sold properties; compare like models to like models; and keep the conversation with the seller focused on the task at hand: setting the list price. I present my CMA in person, sitting at the seller’s kitchen table and presenting and explaining each comp one by one. I highlight the sold price, the closing date, the number of days on market, and the seller concessions, if any, with yellow highlighter. I also produce an automated 60-page Seller’s Report using the REALTORS Property Resource®.
What I did wrong: I talked way too much about myself and boasted about my knowledge. Don’t get me wrong; prospective sellers wanted to know I knew what I was talking about. But didn’t spend enough time listening to what the sellers needed and expected from me, and I didn’t pay attention to the nonverbal cues they were giving me.
How I fixed it: After presenting comps and giving the seller an opportunity to ask questions, I ask one simple thing: “After looking at the comps, what do you think your property is worth?” Then I remain quiet until the seller provides me with their thoughts. If they don’t say anything, I sit in silence until they speak. This gives me a chance to examine their body language, which will hint at whether they will be realistic about their asking price. If they start to avoid eye contact, looking around the room, and can’t focus on answering my question, it’s a good sign they aren’t ready to handle some harsh realities. I’ve worked with many unrealistic sellers, and I’ve found they take up a lot of time and frequently don’t make it to closing.
Setting the List Price
What I did wrong: I didn’t try to temper unrealistic expectations with education. If a seller asked for a list price well above what the market would support, I would end the conversation, advise that the seller rethink their game plan, and tell them to call me at a later time. I didn’t want to offend the seller, but I also wanted to avoid wasting both mine and the seller’s time.
How I fixed it: Once the seller tells me what they think the list price should be, I ask them, “Why?” This is another opportunity to watch their body language as they reply. If their price is too high, we take another look at the comps and repeat the process. Most sellers catch on quickly to market trends and price their property within a reasonable range. But I’ve learned at this point not to give up on the conversation or steer it in a different direction if I think the seller is off track. It’s important not to lose the momentum of the conversation or else the seller’s thought process gets lost.
Asking for the Business
What I did wrong: I would not directly ask for the listing. Instead, I would talk around it and set follow-up appointments in hopes that the seller would get around to hiring me.
How I fixed it: Once we’ve gotten through the difficult conversations and set a list price that is in line with market conditions, I know I’ve gained the seller’s trust. Now I can ask for the business. I simply ask, “When will you be ready to list your property with me?” It’s not a demanding question, but it pushes the process forward.
All in all, the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes have been extremely valuable for future conversations with sellers. At the end of the day, it’s about establishing mutual trust. We both must have a level of respect for one another in order for the client to choose me and for me to choose the client.