Strategic questions that lead to better answers, plus four phrases to avoid.
When you’re on a sales call or in-person consultation, you’re eager to get your info and point across. But you might be missing cues that could turn an iffy buyer into a sale. Listen carefully to what your potential client is saying and don’t let yourself make assumptions based on unclear answers. Instead, use these 10 follow-up questions to elicit a more detailed response or redirect thinking to a positive solution.
1. “So what you’re saying is ___?”
Repeating back the question that’s rephrased is one of the most proven ways to prompt further explanation, prevent misunderstandings, and diffuse a possible defensive scenario. If what you’ve heard prompts you to make an assumption, you could be perceived as someone who doesn’t listen or care.
2. “What does that mean for you/your business?”
Help your potential client understand the end game, or the consequences of a particular thought or action. For instance, showing what a seller could save with a flat fee vs. commission to list is valuable. But getting them to see what they could do with those savings, how the implication could benefit them, is priceless. You’re creating an “aha” moment.
3. “Why is that?”
Often, you’re talking to someone who expresses a concern or dislike for something. It could be as simple as “I don’t want to make a decision today.” Asking why might show you that they think they’re not in a position to buy and you have an opportunity to educate. Or it might show that they’ve had a bad experience that needs some reassurance from you. Understanding the reason empowers you and the client.
4. “So that’s like what you said earlier about ___?”
Drawing a connection to an earlier point shows you’re listening and interested in understanding their objective. Poor communication is the biggest complaint against agents. Show that you’re different.
5. “Can you give me an example?”
This is good to open up a generalization. Getting a “for instance” may reveal what their real objection may be. It could be something you can address easily or an issue that needs some careful explanation.
6. “Really…” or “Oh?”
Say this with strong, interested emphasis to show that you “get” what they’re saying and are encouraging them to continue. This is also great for a sort of flat statement with some underlying truth that needs further explanation: “My last agent let me down.”
7. “What do you mean by ___?”
If your potential client says, “I need someone experienced,” you don’t reply, “Yeah, I’ve got experience!” You say, “What do you mean by experience?” It could be literal like how many homes you’ve sold, or masking a difficult situation . You won’t know if you don’t give them an opportunity to explain further.
8. Rephrase the question.
If your contact doesn’t answer the question completely or misunderstands what you’re asking, this is a good way to ask again without putting them on the defensive for not understanding.
9. “Are there any concerns I haven’t addressed?”
It’s nice to think you’ve covered every base and have a thorough presentation. But sometimes you leave something out, or there’s an issue that’s out of the box. There may be that thought that’s been floating around in your prospect’s head but felt uneasy or uncomfortable about asking. This gives a real opportunity to address something that could prevent going forward with you, or that could derail the transaction down the road.
10. “Am I being clear about what ___ means?”
Look at your potential client’s face. You can see when someone is puzzling over something you’ve said. Perhaps you’ve talked about “buyer co-op” and although there was a nod you can tell the term is unfamiliar. This helps them feel less awkward and you build trust.
Responses to avoid
Some phrases and responses are a turn-off. Really think about how you respond and how certain phrases can be construed. These are some follow-up questions/phrases to avoid:
1. “Great!” “Awesome!”
Saying this mechanically every time someone says something you agree with is disingenuous. Is this how you respond to your friends in real life? Sales people can easily get caught in a rut of salesy, stilted responses that really don’t sound genuine or natural.
2. “What do you think you did wrong?”
While it might be true that a client overpriced his house with his last agent and it didn’t sell, it’s never a good idea to put him on the defensive. Because really, a good agent would have explained why overpricing doesn’t work.
3. “I’ll leave it up to you.”
This has two problems. First, it can lead to inaction. Second, as the agent and expert, you’re not really leading them to a real solution. While you can’t dictate their actions, you can give them viable choices so a decision doesn’t have to be delayed.
4. Say anything.
Three reasons here. First, if you don’t know the answer, admit it instead of making up stuff. A simple, “That’s a unique situation. Let me research that for the best solution.” Then write it down, so they know you intend to find that out quickly. Second, don’t feel like you have to fill a brief silence with words (they might just be thinking about what you’re saying!). Third, don’t rush through to get everything in before someone objects. That’s a pitch, not a presentation that leads to an informed decision.
A sales call or in-person consultation is a decisive moment. So take some time to really question your questions. Are you giving canned responses you think they want to hear, or do you really want to help your client buy or sell a house successfully? Practice listening, and get some role playing in with family, friends or colleagues. You’ll be glad you did.