Presentation Tips From a Guru

Kate LeVan, a managing partner at LeVan Partners, coaches people on improving their presentation, negotiation, and selling skills. Here, she provides valuable tips on how to make a successful presentation.

I’m assuming there are some common components to all successful presentations?

LeVan: First, you have to have understand where clients are emotionally. Sellers are making a high-stakes decision. They’re not just signing into a contract with you, but buying into a relationship with someone who is going to help them with one of the biggest undertakings of their lives.

Listing a house isn’t about coming in and giving your credentials. That’s the realm of the rational. It’s essentially building trust and chemistry in a short period of time so people say, on an emotional level, “This person understands me. I can talk to this person, and I’m willing to enter into a contract with this person.”

Real estate practitioners also need to key in on the cultural motivators of a seller. For example, many homebuying and selling decisions are driven by societal values—keeping up with the Jones, for instance. Or, “I’m taking a job here, and others at my level in the company live in Highwood, so I want to live there, too.” Listen carefully to what sellers talk about to figure out what those values are and how much weight they put on them.

How can the salesperson uncover those emotional and cultural issues?

LeVan: Ask some questions and develop some rapport before you make your listing presentation. Get sellers to open up. “Why are you moving? You have a new job? Congratulations. How do you feel about move? How does your spouse feel?”

Those kinds of questions uncover emotional motivators and add color and context to the bare facts that they have this kind of house, work on this time frame, and want to end up buying X type of house in a place with good schools. Get out all the emotional reasons, and try to figure how they’re prioritized.

Then, in your presentation, when you serve up what you have to offer, key into emotional motivators and make the presentation all about them. Give specific examples based on their interests and emotions.

Does that mean that facts don’t matter in a presentation?

LeVan: Not at all. It simply means that you must gain the sellers’ confidence before you present the facts.

Any good presentation structure needs to meet three phases of communication to be effective. Prepare the person for the information you’re about to deliver, deliver the message, and then make sure they’ve got it.

It very much follows along lines of: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them what you want to tell them, and tell them what you told them. That “tell ‘em” structure isn’t beating people over head. In fact, people need very clear directive of the roadmap of what you’re about to tell them and they need repetition to hold onto key messages.

Structure your message in a way that says, “I’m going to talk with you about how I can help you in this area, given what you’ve told me. I’d like to review what it is we’ve discussed so far so I make sure I understand what you’re looking for and then tell you a bit about my background.” You’ve prepared them. Then deliver your key messages.

Come back and repeat key messages, be sure you’ve supported the messages—show that you understand the market, talk about the credentials of you and the people back at the office—whatever is appropriate to their needs. It will be different each time.

Throughout your presentation, check in with them, asking, “Would you say X is true? Based on what you told me, are you with me here?” Again, it’s all about them.

What are some of the factors in a presentation that affect people’s decisions?

LeVan: When we’ve asked prospective customers after a presentation what influenced their buying decisions, our research has found that it breaks out as follows:

  • 40 percent is the product and service. Are you experienced in marketing real estate?Have you sold houses in this price range?
  • 20 percent is trust. Do you understand my circumstances and concerns enough to make decisions on my behalf?
  • 20 percent is chemistry. "I can or can't deal with this person for the next few months." It's that intangible.
  • 20 percent is political. It could be that a seller says, "My new company recommends using a certain real estate salesperson." Or, "My future boss used this company, and I'm going to try it too." These are things that the real estate practitioner can't control.

In a practical sense, to get to closure, you also need to know who’ll make the decision. You can then focus in on that person’s needs—an emotional husband or a rational wife or vice versa.

What are some of the mistakes people make in making presentations?

LeVan: If you base your presentation on a generic picture—general information about the industry and your company—then you’re in trouble. Make it all about the sellers. Start from what is troubling them, and tailor your message to what they value.

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