What Are Sales Skills, Anyway?
I've been eating, sleeping, and breathing "sales training" for so long now, that the language of influence has become intertwined into my speech patterns. I've almost unwittingly become an expert at selling to my kids, partner, and friends in addition to my prospects. Surprisingly, as often as I use these techniques, no one seems to catch on, and it probably makes me a more agreeable person to be around.
Because when selling, I do more listening than talking. I ask interesting questions that others enjoy answering. I tell stories that relate to what they've been talking about. I don't go on and on about myself, my product, or reasons they should agree with me.
How Does that Work in Real Estate Prospecting?
This type of selling is often called consultative sales, or my own version, called Openhanded Selling. In real estate prospecting, it means you'll use your influence to affect someone's decision-making process. Not the decision itself-just the process of making a decision. If that sounds daunting, rest assured that it's surprisingly easy to do once you recognize the language patterns needed to direct a conversation. It's also subtle, supportive, and powerfully effective.
Many people are attracted to consultative sales because they think of it as a "soft sell" approach where they don't have to ask someone to buy. But nothing could be farther from the truth! Done correctly, this method is very specific about what you want people to do-you want them to hire you as their real estate agent.
In consultative sales-unlike traditional benefits-driven selling-you don't promote benefits for the entire first half of your conversation. Instead, you'll only present benefits after you've asked interesting questions that your prospect has enjoyed answering-questions about them and their situation that lead them through a decision funnel. You listen thoroughly, and use your knowledge of real estate business to ask further, even more perceptive questions that help them make decisions.
You don't try to force a decision down their throats. You take your time. Work around to the topic by "priming the pump."
How Does that Compare to Traditional Selling?
Traditional real estate salespeople tend to do one of two things:
- They ask a few "needs analysis" questions, get one or two answers, then launch as quickly as possible into how they will fill those needs. Then they talk and talk.
- Or they get lost in the conversation. They start off one direction (often casual, chatty), and don't know how to turn it into a sales conversation. That's when they begin to substitute "education" for selling, spending time explaining how buying or selling works and why they're a good choice, rather than finding out if and why the person might be interested or not.
If you know what I'm talking about, then you're probably saying "OK, what can I do about it?"
I'll tell you.
Understand how to begin a sales conversation and maintain control of it consultatively. The frame of the interaction is yours to control.
If you start the conversation one way, that's the frame you've created. Every question you ask controls the frame of the conversation. Don't ask questions that don't move the conversation the direction you want it to go.
If you find the conversation going the wrong way, then recognize that there are certain questions you can ask that naturally shift the frame. For instance, "What would happen if...?"
How to Talk to Sellers about How to Do a Short Sale
Here's an example:
Suppose I'm talking to a teacher about being laid off and not being able to find a new job. I think this teacher might have to do a short sale of her home. She doesn't want to think about short selling her home, does she? Who does? So, rather than asking her directly about whether or not she plans to sell her house, I want to be more subtle. I can move the conversation in the right direction by saying something like, "What would happen if you found a new job that paid a lot less...would you take it?" And away we would go, talking about finances. That would eventually give me an opportunity to talk about how I helped another person in her situation get a fresh start-and how that person is better off now because he took advantage of the easy climate for getting short sales approved.
The framework for a consultative sales conversation mirrors the framework of a person's decision-making process. In other words, if you want to sell without seeming like you're selling, you have to master the steps of the decision-making framework, as well as a handful of influence techniques for moving someone through that framework-naturally.