A Guide on How to Answer the Phone as a Real Estate Investor

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To become successful in real estate in any capacity, no matter if you are a licensed Realtor or a real estate investor, you must learn to master phone conversion.

Taking the time to master your phone conversation will ultimately lead to more appointments, more contracts and higher profits. Throughout the years of my business I have taken many calls from sellers facing all sorts of situations, and I would like to impart some of the best advice I can offer to help you not only be successful on the phone, but master the art of conversion as well.

Take your Calls Live

Lets start out with some basics first, take your calls live.

I am bewildered when I read discussions sometimes here on the BP forums how other users typically won’t take their phone calls live, they either let them go to voice mail or purposefully don’ t answer them right away. Let me share a secret with you, the less calls you take live, and the longer it takes you to reply to a missed call, the more leads that will fall through your finger tips. Setting up a proper marketing campaign takes time, money and a lot of patience into making your phone ring with potential leads, so at the very least be vigilant about answering these calls!

You typically are not the only mail piece they have received, many of these potential sellers have been receiving mail for YEARS.

And if the seller is truly motivated they may not even leave a voice mail before they move on to call the next mail piece in their box and in competitive markets such as Dallas Fort Worth, your mail might literally be a in a pile of hundreds on a kitchen table. For someone that is truly motivated, they are looking for a solution to their problem and fast, sort of  like a plumbing leak in your house at midnight.

You just want to get someone out there as quick as you can to solve the problem, and that often means whoever is first to take the call and say they are on their way to help.

Ditch the Script

If you’re brave enough, I suggest not using a script at all even if you are brand new. Just let the conversation happen naturally, don’t talk too much and actually listen to what they have to say.

Not only will they appreciate you taking the time to actually listen to them and care about their situation, but they will often reveal hints here and there that can help you convert the lead.

I typically just have a few brief open ended questions that I ask to help get the conversation rolling, then after that I just follow the rabbit hole where it takes me. Sometimes its laughing at some light hearted jokes the owner makes, others might talk about what it was like to grow up in the house and some callas are more serious tone that may involve the loss of a loved one.

Remember, this is a comfortable conversation with someone you have never met. You want to be able to build a rapport with them on the phone that transfers to the house on your appointment. When I show up at an appointment the home owners often greet me with a tone that sounds like they are talking to an old friend. 

It’s difficult to build rapport if you sound like a scripted robot going one by one down your list of questions or worse yet asking so many questions you sound like an interrogator. Instead, sit back and relax and listen and adapt whatever call list you choose to your own style. Listening is crucial and always look for something that you can share with the person to build rapport with such as a: story, an experience, a hobby, pets, kids whatever it is find it. There are many routes to your answer to find the sellers motivation and needs; you just have to ask the right questions and listen. For instance, it could be something as simple as general key words to listen for: must sell, need to sell, as is, estate property, wanted to sell the house yesterday or anything to that effect. Please note, depending on the lead type your questions may change for example if you are a realtor marketing for listings versus an investor marketing pre-foreclosures.

When it comes down to it, taking the time to build a relationship with the seller and listening to their needs, that may be the tipping point that helps change a sellers mind from NO to YES. Ditching the script might sound scary at first, but trust me with practice you will eventually mater it as well.

Questions to Help Get the Conversation Started

To help you get started here are some of the most common open ended questions that I ask that both help get the conversation started, and help me gain insight to the sellers situation.

Please note, you do NOT need to ask every single one of these questions. Again, I recommend that you do not do this you do not want to sound like a robot.

Related: How to Talk To Motivated Sellers on the Phone: The Benefits of Using A Standard Property Information Form

1. “So, What Made You Call Today?”

Just be quite and listen. Listen to what it is about their life or situation at that current time that is making them call you at this moment.

Listen and write it down, and don’t interrupt with questions until they are finished telling you their story about why they are calling. In fact, in my lead database I keep information that has nothing to do with the house itself such as asking price or anything like that. Instead, I make notes about the seller, the situation they may be facing, important people in their lives, pets, favorite foot ball team etc, anything that I can use to help build a stronger relationship with them.

I have a pretty good memory, but I speak with ALOT of sellers, so having a database backup the information helps relieve some pressure for me. Before I go on the appointments I will often print these notes and put it in my folder so I can refer to it if needed on the drive up.

2. “Tell Me a Little Bit About the House” or “What’s the Story with the House?”

Don’t want to get into overly detailed questions over the phone. If you pry too much you might come across as an arrogant know it all.

If during this reply they don’t receive basic information such as: number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage, central heat and air you can ask them, but even then I usually don’t bother making them list the information out. You can find this information on the tax rolls, but they can be inaccurate sometimes, so be sure to verify on the appointment.

If they haven’t told you yet, or even if they have, ask them the question “why do you want to sell the house”. They will start to reveal some of their inner secrets. You will find most of the people that will sell you their house have more than one motivation or red flags as to why they are looking to sell their house. The motivation isn’t just their grandmother died, maybe there are 6 heirs, several of the heirs won’t even speak with each other, and the person on the phone is ultimately responsible for it all and its becoming a headache for all of them. Sometimes when you ask what made you call they may tell you about how they are a few payments behind, but later on in the conversation they may tell you about a divorce (2 motivating factors), that’s why you want to ask questions like this and listen.

3. “When Do You Want to Sell” or “When Are You Looking to Move?”.

Let them tell you more about themselves and their story, get additional insight.

4. “Where Are They in the Process?”

This is a good Have they talked to other investors, have they tried to work with realtor?” If they haven’t listed with a realtor ask them why not. This will give you more insight. http://www.chrisfeltus.com

Even if they told you a little bit about repairs in the above question, I still ask them since we buy homes as is are there any major repair issues before I come out? Here they may talk to you about the roof and already having a bid of 10k. If you’re not that experienced yet it may  be wise to have a roofing contractor or two meet you out on the property or may use this information later in negotiations.

Related: How to Convert a Motivated Seller’s “NO” Into a EMPHATIC “YES!”

5. “Is Anyone Part Owner?”

Want to make sure when you go on appointment to have decision makers present.

Easier to get all parties on board in person, where you can explain and answer any questions regarding the full details of your offer and the conditions. Tell them a little bit about how you work and what you do. Make sure to set expectations, let them know you are discount home buyers, not retail buyers, you offer time and convenience for a discounted sale.

Close quick, pay cash, don’t have to mess with realtors or repairs or appraisals. If that sounds good schedule an appointment. Sometimes this isn’t possible as the heirs might live far away or in another state completely, if so, no big deal.

Sometimes people like to point blank ask “what do you owe on the property?” Personally I never ask this question on the first phone conversation.

I have had people personally bring several thousand dollars to the closing table because they were that motivated to get rid of the house. Alternatively you can do a quick title search on the property and reverse amortize the loan and see what other liens there may be to have an idea of how much equity is built into the property if you really need to know but do not feel like asking them directly over the phone. Besides there is usually always room to make a creative deal happen (sub2 etc.).

Conclusion

You may notice I didn’t put this in a list fashion. It’s good to have a general chronological order of where to take the conversation, but you never want to force it, which is why I avoided that format.

I hope that has been helpful. Remember the list of questions I listed is just to help you get started, instead of trying to memorize questions or anything of that manner, focus the majority of your energy on building the best relationship with the seller that you can. And if you listen and generally care about finding the best solution for them, it will show. And one last parting tip, if you are the type of person that doesn’t want to take any.

Eventually, as you grow, this will likely become a component of your business that is sourced to someone else on your team, but a very valuable job indeed. It is the front line for your lead generation efforts, and having the experience firsthand that you have already mastered can help you mentor and teach others that move into that role so that they too can be successful. Best of luck to everyone, implement some of the tips in this article regularly you will do great!

Would you add anything to this list?

Be sure to leave your comments below!

 

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About Author

Chris discovered his passion for real estate early on working for a land developer. In addition to flipping houses, Chris operates as a licensed Realtor in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.

22 Comments

  1. Hey Chris,
    When I started using direct mail, I used a live phone number they could call and reach me. It all changed one morning at 7:30 when I was sleeping in and got a call saying “What’s the plan?”

    No good morning, no “Hi my name is”, just “what’s the plan”?

    It was an expensive, high impact Fedex package direct mail campaign and the lead was red hot, but I completely fumbled through it just because I didn’t expect people to call outside of business hours.

    Since then I figured I prefer letting it go to voice mail, doing quick research online (ie who the person is, what house/company) then calling them back. The live calls also gave me the impression of being on call 24/7 which I hated.

    I do see your point though, but it has its drawbacks.

    • Hey Chris. I see your point. I silence my phone until I get up, but then I have 2 pups that make me get up each day at 6!

      If you do your research before you make the call, sometimes it can slip through in the conversation and change it’s tone. And it could be wasting your time when you don’t get an appointment, so it’s better to ask your questions in the initial call – it shows interest/concern – then if you get an appointment, do your research after you put the phone down. In my opinion, anyway.

      If someone’s inconsiderate enough to phone that early in the morning, they probably aren’t the sort of person you want to do business with…

      On a side note, I laugh when I see Realtors who put “24 hrs” next to their cellphone number on their business card. They must be new to the business. It’s asking for cranks.

    • Hey Patrick,

      Thanks for stopping by. Yes you can filter the calls through voice mail if you would like. But I should have added to the original post, I take my calls live unless its late at night or early in the morning. Of course if your lead database has a bunch of lower quality leads in it to begin with, it may make more sense to filter your calls through voice mail first.

  2. James M. Schroeder on

    Hello Chris,

    Your article is spot on! I am new to the real estate industry but I currently work at a Field Marketing Organization (FMO) and we specialize in the senior health market. I speak with 100’s of independent insurance agents every month.

    Though the agent is not someone who is selling a house they are a person, and people are people. I can not tell you how many life stories I have heard simply by saying, Wow, really, Oh my, and so on. If you are interested and care and ask a few probing questions (just as you stated in your greatly written article) they will tell you their story and why they want to become a “non captive” insurance agent, and in the case of this article, why they want to sell there house.

    As I sated at the beginning though I have not started my direct mailings and not received any calls regarding a motivated seller. I feel certain once I start receiving calls from home owners wishing to sell only the reason for the call will change, but the end experience will be the same.

    Listen, ask question, and care!

    I truly appreciate all the time you took Chris in writing your article and I look forward to reading more of your future writings! Take Care and God Bless.

    • Hey James,

      Thanks for the kind words. You are exactly right, you have a great outlook on this. The experience and techniques you are using are directly transferable no matter if you are looking to buy a house, sell insurance or blue widgets. When you start working with houses, you will do very well, I can tell. As you say “listen, ask questions and care” excellent words to live by.

      Take care

  3. Excellent article, Chris.

    Lead generation is hard enough. If someone is actually calling your phone, and you don’t answer immediately, you might as well throw your money down the drain!

    • Thanks Joseph,
      Appreciate the kind words. Lead generation is very difficult, takes significant funds and requires time and patience for your lead funnel to fill. If you have the ability to answer your phone live, I recommend you do so.

  4. Good article. Just the other day I called about 10 “We Buy Houses” postcards & letters sent to rental properties I own. I was surprised that only 1 of them actually answered the phone.

    • Hey Chris!
      We were just talking about this at one of our local meetups. A few of my colleagues brought in a few direct mail pieces they had received on their rental properties. They decided to call a few and the vast majority didn’t even return their call several days later. Crazy!

  5. Amicia Mussenden on

    Great article Chris. This advice will certainly serve me well as I’m just starting out in RE investing. Would you recommend a live receptionist service for say part time investors who may have a 9-5 job? The service can ask the necessary questions and take the necessary notes then pass the info to the investor for screening and return calls. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hey Amicia,

      Thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate the kind words. Yes there are quite a few live receptionist services you can use, its quite convenient you can set the times when calls will forward to their services instead of you. If it is difficult to handle phone calls during breaks while your working, it may do you well to consider using a live service such as the one you described.

      Best of luck

      • Amicia Mussenden on

        Thanks for the great advice Chris. Will definitely consider using one of these services as I still have a full time job.

  6. Very well done… each individual needs to refine their “pitch” however reading from a script is the quickest way to let the caller know you have no clue really as to what you are doing. this is all about sales and marketing.. the yellow letter guy had a nice pod cast on this some thought him to hard sell … but a good salesmen will out perform someone who may have more knowledge.

    I too have just gotten some Yellow letters and called back to see how good they were .. No return phone calls and its been 5 days.. People will forget who they called. Answering live is a key component in this endeavor as there is a lot of folks ready and doing exactly what you are doing in your same market.. and the bigger the market the more pressure.

    • Hey Jay,
      Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you completely in regards to the script. It can be painfully obvious, as I mentioned it tends to make people sound robotic.

      As scary as it can be when your new answering your phone without a script, I recommend you get used to it. Its really not that bad even if you are new. Here is another big tip for everyone: When I first started I would print off a few of the common questions that I would ask to help get the conversation started (such as the ones I shared with you all in this blog post). I would just print off the questions in big bold font, and I could refer to that as needed throughout the call. Doing this really helped relieve some of the pressure when I was new.

  7. George Sarianos on

    Great article Chris!

    1 thing I find effective is to always answer the calls during business hours. If I’m doing something at the time or not in the right state of mind to have such conversation, I ask for the callers name and a call back number. Then, when I’m done my current task, or when I’ve gotten into conversation mode, I’ll call the lead back. It may even be asking the caller to hold for a few seconds while you clear your desk and minimize anything on your screen that isn’t related.

    I’ve tried to take calls on the fly while at a project site, while driving to an appointment or in the middle of doing some at the office and I found those calls to be ineffective.

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