5 Questions You Must Ask Before a Listing Appointment
According to the National Association of Realtors®, 74% of sellers only interviewed one real estate agent, and 15% only interviewed two, for the job of selling their home.
This should encourage you to feel pretty confident about your chances of securing a listing if you can secure an appointment with the sellers.
It should also compel you to do everything you can to make sure you don’t leave the house without the listing paperwork signed from that appointment.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the work need to do in order to create that desired outcome happens long before you walk through the front door.
And one of the most important pieces of that preparation process is the seller qualifying interview.
We never go to a seller’s home until we get the right answers to the questions on our seller counseling interview.
On it are the questions to which we need to know the answers before we’re willing to invest our time and money to go on a listing appointment.
Shockingly, a lot of agents are so excited to get a listing appointment that they don’t even take the time to ask the right questions to ensure that they should even be going on that listing appointment. It’s not just about you selling yourself to the seller, it’s also about them selling you on being the right prospect with respect to price, timing, motivation, etc.
It makes sense, then, that if you’re going to spend hours preparing for the appointment, get dressed up, spend money on gas, take time out of your day (and away from your family), and vie for a piece of business that you do your due diligence ahead of time. Right?
After all, we’re talking about 4 to 5 hours of your time and thousands of dollars here.
It’s not just about asking questions...it’s about asking the right questions.
According to Thomas Freese, author of Question-Based Selling: How the Most Powerful Tool in Business Can Double Your Sales Results:
“While questions can help salespeople identify customer needs and qualify opportunities, asking questions ‘strategically’ has become one of the best ways to accomplish a host of other important sales objectives as well, including:
- Gain more credibility sooner and convey greater value.
- Leverage curiosity to secure more mindshare from key decision makers.
- Differentiate yourself and your offerings from the competition.
- Increase the customer’s sense of urgency to move forward.
- Shorten the sales cycle and protect profit margins.
- Navigate to the right people within target accounts.
- Broaden the size and scope of forecasted opportunities.
- Secure commitments for the next step in the sales process.
It turns out that in addition to “what” you ask, “how” you structure your questions can make or break an opportunity to engage potential buyers, or even close a sale. Trouble is, while everybody talks about the importance of asking good sales questions, most salespeople are left to their own devices to figure out what questions to ask and how best to ask them.”
And therein lies the rub.
It’s not just about asking questions, it’s about asking the right questions and doing it in a way that makes sense.
The better job you can do at executing this part of the listing process, the more listings you will secure for yourself.
5 Questions You Must Ask Before a Listing Appointment
Before you launch into “grilling” your seller prospects for information, it’s important that you actually set the listing appointment.
You see, once the appointment is set, there’s something in it for them to give you the information you need to 1) determine if you even want to go on the appointment and 2) prepare for the appointment once you get the right answers to the questions you’re asking.
If you get on the phone with the seller, fail to build rapport and don’t set the listing appointment first, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage in the whole listing process...and you may not get the information you need to ensure the appointment is a good use of your time.
While there are number of questions to which you’d like to get answers, here are the five most important for which you’ll need answers:
1. “What is it that’s caused you to decide you want to sell?”
Of all the requirements I’m looking for in a seller - equity in the home, right time to sell, home in good condition, etc. - motivation trumps everything.
When someone is motivated, they’ll walk through walls to do what it takes to get the result they’re seeking.
- Price their home properly
- Conduct pre-inspections on their home to identify deal-killers early
- Stage their home for sale
- Put a Home Warranty on their home when listed
- Collaborate with, and listen to, you to get the best deal for their home
Motivation is the key ingredient in determining if a listing appointment is worth your time. To that end, you should even ask the follow up questions to this question as part of the qualifying process: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you to sell your home?”. If you get less than an 8, you then ask: “What would it take to get you to an 8, 9 or 10?”
Anything less than an 8, 9 or 10 and you need to ask yourself if the appointment is worth taking.
It’s not our job twist arms and put pressure on people to sell their homes. We’re not looking to convince them of anything. Make sure the seller is sufficiently motivated before you invest your time and energy in going on the listing appointment.
2. “If you could wave a magic wand, when would you like to put your home on the market?”
Next to motivation, timing is the next most important qualified in determining if you want to work with a seller.
A lot of agents will go on a listing appointment and meet with a seller no matter how far out the seller is from wanting to put their home on the market.
The fact of the matter is that unless the seller is in the time frame where they are looking actually to sell, there is no real competitive advantage to going on that listing appointment and doing a listing presentation.
You can be just as effective in building and maintaining a relationship with your seller prospects by calling consistently, sending them market updates via email, sending text messages and mailing out some handwritten notes.
By and large, most people will forget who you are and how spectacular your listing presentation was not long after you leave their home.
Your goal is for them to want to put their home on the market in the next 30 days, with the goal of selling in the next 90 days (or longer for more expensive homes). Between the home pre-inspection, staging, photography, signs, lockboxes, marketing prep, etc., it’s going to be two to three weeks before the home hits the market anyway.
The only reason you might go a little earlier for a listing appointment would be if the seller is wanting/needing to do some rehab on their home before it goes on the market. Other than that, only go on the appointment if they are motivated and the timing is right.
3. “Is there anyone else on the title of the home that would be involved in the sale?”
This one should go without saying. For some reason, though, a lot of agents fail to ask this question, which is a bad thing because not asking is a huge time waster.
Unless you live in a market where one of the owners of a home is away on a consistent basis, such as a military community where people’s spouses are often deployed for extended periods of time around the world, you almost never meet with just one owner of a home.
Selling a home is a huge decision and one that likely won’t happen without both people who own the home being present to make it.
Sure, a lot of sellers will tell you that they are the decision maker in the home and that their spouse will do whatever they decide. The fact of the matter is that no matter how adamant someone is that they call the shots, both owners will have a say in the decision.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can sway one of the owners to list with you and expect them to sell the other owner on doing the same.
It virtually never works.
Always confirm both sellers will be at the listing appointment and reschedule if they won’t. I promise you’ll be happy you did.
4. “What do you think your home is worth?/How much do you owe on your home?”
This is an important 2-for-1 set up here.
At the end of the day, sellers need to be able to perform and actually sell their home.
What this means is that if they want too much for the home or if they owe too much on their home and can’t come to closing with money to facilitate the sale...you don’t go on that appointment.
This is a tough one because someone could be fairly motivated to sell their home, but not able to do so because they owe too much and don’t have the money to close the gap.
As well, if the seller has an outrageous number in their head on the value of their home and doesn’t seem realistic about the price, you may not want to go on that appointment.
Certainly, show me is always better than tell me and you could go to their home to show them with the real value of their home is and lead them to the conclusion that their expectations are a little “out of whack”.
However, unless they are thinking their home is only worth 5 to 10% over market value, you may want to consider carefully whether you should go on that appointment or not.
Remember, a man’s mind changed against his will is of the same opinion still.
5. “Who else are you speaking with regarding the sale of your home?”
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that most sellers interview only one agent.
Still, about 25% of sellers choose to meet with more than one agent and as a result of that, it’s important that you know ahead of time if you have any competition for your listing appointment.
By asking this question in this way, you can make sure you bring all the ammunition you need to professionally discredit the competition and overcome any objections that might come up where your services might not match up to those of the competition.
More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to prepare mentally that you’ve got a fight on your hands and that you’re going to need work maybe a little harder to get that listing.
As an aside, you’ll always want to check in at the listing appointment to be sure the seller had the chance to meet with the other agents they planned on meeting prior to meeting you.
That way, you can continue to cater your message - and close appropriately - during your presentation and time at the home.
Ben Franklin was once attributed with saying: “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Going on a listing presentation without asking the right questions ahead of time can easily put your ability to successfully secure the listing in serious jeopardy.
Use the seller qualification script I’ve provided to you here to ensure that you are ready to handle any challenge that comes up at your listing appointment and even stop some of them from coming up at all.