It’s shameful the way I used to answer questions from prospects or clients when I was a young man. But even my tender age, or having just made the move from homes to investments doesn’t pass muster as an excuse for my dreadful performance back then. Looking back, I feel blessed there are no tapes or video.
Clients would ask me if the rents in the area would tend to rise during the holding period. And I’d answer yes. The problem? Most folks asking questions want the answer — duh. What they really want though, is the ‘why’ or ‘how’ behind the answer. It irritated me no end that they wouldn’t just accept my answer as if I was quoting from the missing third tablet Moses forgot on the mountain. I knew the answer. Why couldn’t they just take my word for it? What a moron I was. I could have been more full of myself back then — I’m not sure how though.
That’s about the time I was blessed by the teachings and example of Chuck Chatham. As far as I’m concerned Mr. Chatham was an icon in counseling real estate clients. As the title of his seminar promised, The Art of Real Estate Counseling, (also the title of his book) he was indeed a master. One the subjects near and dear to his heart was how we, as professionals, dealt with questions from our clients, or those pondering becoming a client. He was especially sensitive to young upstarts like me and a few others in his seminar one day.
Imagine a diminutive guy with what appears to be several centuries of experience etched on his face. He oozed authority. I remember him having an eagle’s beak nose, and a patrician like stare, that when focused on you, was both chilling and assuring at the same time. Try pullin’ that one off.
I learned much that day
- If possible, give the short answer at first.
- Follow that up with an explanation for that answer.
- Ensure that explanation is pure substance, with no guessing on your part.
- Give an example if possible, illustrating your explanation.
- Allow for chronological context if appropriate.
- Finally, ask them if your answer was sufficient.
You’ll be pleased how many times that last one generates very solid follow-up questions. When this happens it’s commonly an indicator they now have more confidence in your expertise, real world knowledge, and experience.
It’s simple — you can’t fake solid, substantive answers to real questions. Especially when they’re from prospects or referrals who’re asking those questions in part to ascertain whether you actually know more than they do. Let’s face it, so many so-called ‘pros’ are really wannabes a few chapters further into the book than their audience.
Short and/or dismissive answers given with a tone of false authority just won’t cut it — not in the long run. You must actually know what you’re talking about.
When we as pros answer questions, we must give answers so complete, forthcoming, and informative that the questioner is somewhat taken aback. If you begin putting this into practice you’ll never go back to the short, dismissive, “you’re questions are a pain in the ass” answers.
Why? The change in the way they look at you. You gave them a real answer with an impeccable explanation, and instead of getting served a frozen dinner, you gave them filet mignon. Talk about separating yourself from the crowd.
Of course, this requires that you actually know the answers. That’s always the challenge, isn’t it?
Photo: Brian Hillegas