Personal Development

Real Estate Newbies: Why You Should Shut Up & Listen

Expertise: Personal Development, Real Estate Wholesaling, Real Estate Investing Basics
96 Articles Written
Shut up and listen

Talking to sellers can be a little intimidating the first of couple of times you receive a phone call.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

I often hear stories of newbies (when starting a mailing campaign) describe the fear they had when speaking to a seller for the first time. I experience the same fear. You begin to have a 1000 questions running through your mind such as:

  • What questions to ask?
  • How to initiate the conversation?
  • What will the seller say?

These are just a few questions the anxiety of speaking to a seller will create. Preparation will eliminate or at-least minimize that anxiety and move you into a level of confidence. I recently came across a very inspiring quote by Abraham Lincoln and his theory on preparation.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is the essential in being successful in every aspect of your life. I look at things through the lens that everything is created twice, first as a thought and secondly as a creation. Everything that was created was a thought first. Without getting all scientific and metaphysical, here me out. Before the iPad was create physically Steve Jobs had to create it in his mind and then create it on paper which materialized into a tangible product. This is how your conversation with sellers must be. Before picking up that phone, see the conversation all the way through and you will have your blueprint for a successful conversation.

How to Talk with Motivated Sellers

Here are some of the elements that I use that will help you visualize your way through a successful Seller conversations:

#1 Introduction: A well-grafted introduction sets the tone of the conversation. This introduction should be the first few lines of your elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do and why you’d be a perfect candidate to help them with there housing situation. After the introduction it becomes evident if the caller is a tire kicker or if they are genuinely looking to sell their home.

#2 Speak with CONFIDENCE: A seller will notice if you are well informed and that you are familiar with real estate and how to navigate a transaction. They will ask you questions as well, but don't let this make you nervous or intimidate you. Sellers are seeking information just as you are so be confident in answering questions. Yes, you will stumble a bit but make sure you have a script ready of the questions you need to ask. You will not know it all but as long as you know the very basics of how a transaction works you will be able to get through the conversation.

You have to remember you are not selling anything you are having a friendly conversation about how you can help them.

#3 Ask Leading Questions: A Leading Question is defined as: a question phrased in a manner that tends to suggest the desired answer. This type of questioning is great because it directs the seller to identify their motivation. Its similar to being the captain of the ship. You are helping the seller navigate their way through choppy waters. By asking leading questions you will find out so much more information than if you were to be straight forward. Take your time, what are you rushing for your just have a general conversation with a friend, this is the feeling you want the seller to have. Its all psychological, and leading questions will help you understand how they view the property.

For example: So how much work have you done to the home recently? By asking this leading questions the respondent will inform you of the condition of the home and if they still have pride in ownership. A great follow up question if the home has not been updated is What happened? or Why haven’t you put any work into the house? This is valuable information you will receive and you will be able to gauge the owners level of motivation.

#4 Actively Listen: One of the biggest mistakes an investors make in a conversation with a seller is focusing on getting all the questions answered that’s on their note pad. The best thing to do is ask a question and then Shut Up!

In any conversation if you let someone speak long enough they will tell you all the information you need to know. People often like to impress others with how much they know, please don’t be that person. You want to receive information and not give too much information. Try and be the receiver as much as possible and not the sender.

#5 Closing the Conversation: When closing the conversation its great to ask the seller, “Again how can I help you, or better yet, What do you want me to do?”

Often you will hear, “Give me a price my house is worth.” That is great because now you can give them actionable steps they need to take to start the process, such as asking them what do they think its worth or how much they think the repairs are. They will more than likely  have no clue and this is your opportunity to give them a price on what you will pay for the property, and state this price is based on a desktop valuation without viewing the property. This also will identify the sellers motivation, if they are willing to proceed. During this initial conversation there is 1 thing you are really looking to find out, “Is the seller motivated”, this is the whole goal of the conversation. If the Seller is not motivated now then you need to be actively seeking what will spark motivation.


Seller conversations can be steered as long as you are prepared. By using this outline will help you gauge seller motivation and save you valuable time on the phone. The more leads you can touch the more opportunities you have to close deals. If you know of ways to steer seller conversations we would like to hear from you. Its good to hear how other investors navigate their way through these conversations.


Marcus Maloney is a value investor and portfolio holder of residential and commercial units. He has completed over $3.3 million in wholesale transactions. Currently, Marcus is a licensed agent who ...
Read more
    Brian Gibbons
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Marcus I like this. Asking good questions is the “make or break” skill of the REI. If sales skills scare you, read Tom Hopkins or Zig Ziglar. Be a Champion, Sharpen the saw, as the late Stephen Covey said in the 7 Effectivve Habits. My favorite sales training book is “The Art of Persuasion”: My 2 points are: 1. Don’t push a technique down a seller’s throat. If you like lease options or sub2 or option flip, listen first and ask “What If” statements that the prospect can think about. Ask for instance, “What if, Mr and Mrs Seller, I could, and I would have to check with my business partner, but what if we could… …Get you a payment to you for say $1600 a month (ex) for a period of time, for say 2 to 5 years, and then pay off your mortgage down the road, and not pay any agents commissions or closing costs either….would that be something to think about, or maybe not?… Point 2 – 3 Interview Questions – Say “What would you like to see happen?” And then I LISTEN and take detailed notes about everything the Seller is saying while filling out the Seller’s Questionnaire — even on appointments. It’s okay, they will respect that you are taking notes on how you can help them better.” Another good question I like to ask is, “What would you like our company to do to help you?” This question really allows me to find out what the Seller is thinking and exactly how I can help them. So I really don’t have to guess or pressure them because getting to their motivation is just a couple of questions away. And once I ask those key questions, I know I have a deal or not. And to seal the deal, the one question I use is: “When would you like our company to help you in your situation?” If there is no urgency, you can adjust your presentation.
    Marcus Maloney
    Replied over 6 years ago
    @Brian Great points, those book suggestions are great, I’m a huge fan of Steven Covey, and Zig Ziglar, another great author is John Maxwell. The Art of Persuasion I will have to read. Listening is a great tool that people have not mastered and especially for as a REI its the starting point.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great stuff Marcus! Its amazing what people will say when you just let them talk!
    Replied over 6 years ago
    @Brandon, Thanks, I try and make sure some of the mistakes I made starting out doesn’t hinder others from progressing. A lot of things my Mentor told me I didn’t listen and had to learn the hard way. Life sure has a way of kicking you in the butt if you don’t listen. Thanks for the encouragement. “Enjoying the Journey”
    Al Williamson
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Marcus, Thank you for a well structured post packed with wisdom. I’m a huge john maxwell fan as well. Keep these tidbits streaming.
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Al, Thank you, trying keep a fresh perspective on things. “Enjoying the Journey”
    Al Williamson
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Marcus, Thank you for a well structured post packed with wisdom. I’m a huge john maxwell fan as well. Keep these tidbits streaming. Reply Report comment
    Sara Cunningham
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great tips and I am a big fan of Steven Covey and Zig Ziglar too. I really think the most important point is to listen more than anything else. Another tactic I use is to always try to use open ended questions that don’t allow the seller to just answer yes or no. You want as much information as possible and those kind closed ended questions won’t get you the information you need. Thanks for the post Marcus.
    Jefferson Gan from Matawan, New Jersey
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I know this response will be 4 years after.. Like the forum post Marcus. Nice interview questions too Brian! 🙂 I might incorporate the “What would you like our company to do to help you?” Since this can open up motivation too if seller is really motivated and maybe sometimes can tell their other story that haven’t been discussed yet.
    Nicholas Pinn from Lawnside, NJ
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great Info here. Thank you!