Clients tell you so much, not only with what they say but how they decorate, how they interact with each other and what they don’t say. If you’re not actively listening and asking questions from the beginning, it will come back to bite you later in the process.
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As Realtors and brokers, we know the value of nailing down an effective listing presentation. Luxury clients (whose properties sell for $500,000 or more) take an average of three listing presentations before picking the agent they like best, and competition can be fierce. We’ve been taught to take charge of these presentations and lead clients to conclude that working with you is the best choice. But I’ve found that making the presentation more about listening and less about you works best.
Clients, like all people, tell you so much, not only with what they say but how they decorate, how they interact with each other and what they don’t say. If you’re not actively listening and asking questions from the beginning, it will come back to bite you later in the process.
To create a successful listening presentation for any property, consider these four things as you think about, prepare and practice for the meeting:
Here’s why each is important to help you close the deal and win the listing.
Ears: Utilize active listening
Listening is the foundation of any relationship. The best way to elicit critical information from your clients is to ask open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Try some of these in your next presentation:
- Why are you selling your home? What’s causing you to move or make a change?
- Are you ready to let go of this home and see your property as a commodity rather than your personal space?
- Where are you going?
- If you were looking back on this, what would feel like a win?
If you get a response different from what you expected, don’t hesitate to say, “Tell me more about that,” or “explain that to me a little more.” Active listening hears what the client is saying, but it also helps you read between the lines.
Pay attention to word choice.
- Is the seller using aggressive, defensive language?
- Are they precise or more general in how they describe what they want?
- Do you get a sense of hesitation in some answers?
- Do different people feel strongly about certain parts of the process?
Now is a great time to get a read on the what, when, why and how, which will help you stay on track as the process unfolds. Ask your questions, then let the client talk. Being quiet and listening brings a different level of power to your presentation.
Eyes: Evaluate all you see
We say as much with our bodies and surroundings as we do with our words. From the moment you arrive, pay attention to the home and how it’s decorated.
- What story is the client telling with their choice of decor?
- What’s on the walls — modern art, beach-themed decoration or family photos? You can tell what’s important to a person based on how they style their home.
- Are they detail-oriented or the big-picture type?
This information will help you tailor your process to fit their specific needs.
In addition to the decoration, also pay attention to body language. You can quickly pick up on tension or comfort if you watch how someone’s body moves as they answer. You can also understand relationship dynamics on a deeper level. All couples have relationship tells, and there is an almost secret, silent language between partners. See what you can learn from this information.
Heart: Lead with compassion
Selling a home is an emotional experience, but people usually don’t realize this until after the process starts. During this time, we often play two roles — agent and therapist.
Great brokers work from experience and lead with compassion, always. People don’t know how emotionally attached they are to their homes until it’s time to make decisions, so the deeper feelings don’t unfold until after you get the listing. If you’re closely paying attention, you can see who will have the greater emotional struggle early on, and you can prepare.
It’s important to actively listen and establish a connection at the beginning of the relationship. By the time things get heavy, you’ve earned their confidence and trust, and you can help guide your clients through this phase of the process.
Part of our job is to stay focused on the outcome clients want. It comes back to one question: Where are you going? When the emotion comes, you can gently remind your clients why they’re going through this process. Get them to think forward instead of getting caught in the past. You’ll save yourself turmoil and challenge by slowing down, listening and asking questions.
Gut: Take the meta-view
If you’re using your ears, eyes and heart during a listening presentation, you’re taking in information. Listing presentations come with their fair share of pressure, since you want to make a good impression.
I encourage you to take what’s called the “meta-view”. Get out of your own way. Picture yourself as a third-party observer, a fly on the wall during this interaction. Take everything in from that other perspective. Sometimes we call this a “high-level view,” With it, you can pick up on things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Once you’ve listened and connected with your potential clients, you’ll come to the end of your listening presentation, and it will be time to close the deal. Take a moment to review your notes and process what you’ve learned.
My best advice to wrap up the session is to mirror back what you heard clients say. To mirror, you’ll repeat back keywords and phrases you connected with during the presentation. Use phrases like, “What I heard you say,” or “What I picked up on from our conversation.” This makes clients feel heard and seen and lets them know you will be an advocate for them throughout the entire selling process.
Christine Carr is the head of agent development Luxury Living Chicago Realty. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.