Why and how to qualify prospects

You want to qualify prospects for two main reasons:

When the philosophy gap can't be bridged

Sometimes, a prospective client relationship just doesn't feel right. That doesn't mean the prospect is a bad client. It means the prospect is a bad client for you.The only way you'll know whether the client is good for you is to do your qualifying homework by having a listing appointment with the client.

You should enter the listing appointment with a clear understanding of your own service approach and philosophy and use that as the basis for determining whether the prospective client is a good match for your business. For example:

I If your philosophies and attitudes mesh easily, proceed full steam ahead.

I If you uncover philosophical differences, work to iron them out by presenting the benefits of your approach and seeking agreement to proceed along the path you know will result in success.

I If you can't find common ground and the relationship doesn't feel right, walk away from the opportunity. I think you should walk away from a bad client match at least one time to see how it feels to take control of your life and career. Sadly, most agents are too scared to do this. Instead they plow ahead through a nightmarish situation with toxic clients.

I To safeguard your time. By qualifying prospects you assess their motivation, desire, need to take action, ability to act, and authority to make buying or selling decisions. You also assess the odds that the prospect will result in income-producing activity. The qualifying process increases your probability of sales success by determining which prospects are likely to result in commission revenue and which are likely to consume hours without results.

I To determine their service expectations. What kind of service do they expect? What buying or selling approach do they follow? Is there a match between your philosophy and theirs? If there isn't, can you convince them through persuasion that your approach is better than their preconceived notion of what and how you should represent their interests? If not, are you willing to turn down the business? The only way to address these issues is to figure out what your prospects are thinking before you make your presentation.

Before you enter a listing presentation, diagnose the situation you're entering and the opportunity it presents by examining the prospect's answers to the qualifying questions. I recommend you ask the prospect the qualifying questions over the phone when you're scheduling the presentation appointment. If you wait until you're face to face with the prospect, it's too late. By then you want to be offering a tailored presentation, not acquiring baseline information.

Focus your qualifying questions around the following four topics:

1 Motivation and time frame: Ask questions that allow you to gauge how excited the prospect is to buy or sell, and in what time frame they're hoping for. Sample questions include:

• Tell me about your ideal time frame. When do you want this move to happen?

• Is there anything that would cause you not to make this move?

1 Experience: A prospect's view of the real estate profession is filtered through personal previous experience and experiences related by friends and family members. The following questions help you understand your prospect's real estate background and preconceptions:

• How many properties have you sold in the past?

• When was your last sales experience?

• What was your experience like with that sale?

• How did you select the agent you worked with?

• What did you like best and least about what that agent did?

1 Pricing: Asking questions about money will help you gauge the prospect's motivation. They'll also help you determine whether the prospect is realistic about current real estate values and whether he is ready to sell or is just fishing for a price. Listen carefully to the answers to the following two questions:

• How much do you want to list your home for tonight?

• If a buyer came in today, what would you consider to be an acceptable offer for your home?

Here's an old real estate sales truth: The higher the list price, the lower the motivation; the lower the list price, the higher the motivation.

1 Service expectations: Learning your prospect's service expectations is absolutely essential to establishing a good working relationship, but I'll warn you that when you begin to ask the service-related questions you'll likely hear dead silence. Your prospect has probably never met a service provider concerned enough to ask what the customer wants, values, and expects. As a result, you may have to probe and ask follow-up questions to help the prospect open up and enter into the conversation. The following are some sample questions to help figure out what you're prospect is looking for:

• What do you expect from the real estate agent you choose to work with?

• What are the top three things you're looking for from an agent?

• What would it take for you to be confident that my service will meet your requirements?

Following your phone interview or listings appointment, use the answers to questions in each of the above four categories as you compile a qualifying questionnaire on the prospect. See Figure 9-1 for a good format to follow.

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