Conversation Starters: Master Incoming Calls

Take charge of an incoming seller call by asking the right questions, and you can clinch the listing.

June 1, 2005

Someone interested in selling a home has called your office. You try to set an appointment with this potential client, only to be met with the disappointing reply: “No, thanks, we’re just doing a little research. We’ll call you when we’re ready.”

In situations like this it’s easy to feel the seller is in the power position. You want the business and there are many other real estate professionals the seller could hire.

Quite the contrary: You should take the lead by asking questions, as the person who asks the most questions controls a conversation. A well-constructed questioning process greatly improves your chances of bringing in a new listing. Prepare good questions, and ask them with real interest. The caller will sense your concern and become eager to meet with you.

A couple of general tips:

  • Remember that your goal by the end of each call is to set a listing appointment to discuss your services. You must ask for this appointment, sometimes more than once, during the call.
  • Assume you will get the appointment and give them choices as to when that will be. Ask, “Do you prefer mornings or afternoons?” Or, “Is Tuesday or Thursday of next week better for you?” (Notice that offering choices is the same thing fast food restaurants do, and with good reason: “Do you want a small, medium, or large drink with that?”)

What to Say First

As soon as a call comes in, thank the person for calling. Ask their name and use it once or twice during the conversation. People are always pleased when you remember their name; it demonstrates interest. Often, sellers are looking for a market valuation on their property, so try this script:

“If you want to know the market value of your property, we can do one of two things. If you are strictly calling for price, I can give you the name of a couple of appraisers with whom we have built a good relationship. They will come out and appraise the property for you for a fee. At the same time, I can send you information on comparable homes from our computer. Or, Barbara, if you want to put your home on the market, I encourage you to come into our office and discuss the process of selling your home with us. Would you like an appraisal or an appointment?”

If the caller wants an appointment, ask about preferred times until you have set the date. If they hesitate to commit, back off a bit. Tell them briefly why you are a good choice for a real estate practitioner, and return to the questioning process:

“By the way, do you mind if I ask you a few questions? Are you the only owner of the property? And what is the address there? What is a number I can reach you at? Why are you selling? When do you need to move?”

The answers will help you keep the conversation flowing. If the prospect agrees to give you this much information, you can bet they will agree to meet with you, so try again to set the listing appointment.

If the seller indicates they won’t be moving for a year or so, defer spending time with them. Your time is better spent with prospects who have an immediate need for your help. Tell the person:

“If you’re looking to move in a year or so, we can hold off on getting together to determine a price on your home because things are going to change. What I suggest is that we meet about a month before you know you’re going to be transferred. I’ll check in with you in three months, and if the date moves up earlier, give me a call back. In the meantime, is there anything I can help you with today in preparation for your move?”

For prospects wanting to sell within six months, some practitioners prefer to do a full pre-listing interview on the phone. Suppose the seller calling in is very interested in listing with you and has agreed to come into your office. You can ask this:

“We can best prepare for our appointment with you if we can gather some information in advance. I’d like to ask you a few questions. It will take about 10 minutes. Is that OK?”

Now, launch into a prepared questionnaire and fill it out as completely as possible. You can create your own questionnaire using some of the following topics, and add any of your own questions.

  • Name:
  • Address of the property you are selling:
  • Work phone:
  • Home phone:
  • Mailing address:
  • How did you hear about us?
  • Where are you moving to?
  • How soon do you need to be there?
  • Is your home currently on the market with another real estate professional?
  • Has your home been listed in the past year?
  • When are you thinking of putting your home on the market?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • What price range do you think your home is in?
  • Would you like recent sales information from your neighborhood, so we can discuss the right price to get your home sold at this time?
  • Are you interviewing any other real estate professionals?
  • Are you considering working with another company?
  • What are you looking for in the practitioner you select?
  • What kind of loan do you have on your home, and what is the interest rate?
  • What is the approximate loan balance?

When dealing with in-bound calls, show enthusiasm for your work and show confidence that you can handle their business better than anyone out there. The prospect will respond well to your leadership, and you will be on your way to a listing transaction.