How to Handle Telephone Calls

Let’s assume you have run an ad geared toward generating calls from sellers. The first question is: How is the call answered? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to sit around waiting for my phone to ring, so my phone is answered by voice mail. The caller is required to leave a message if he wants to tall to me.

To me this accomplishes two things. First, it will help to determine motivation level. If they are motivated, they will leave a name and number. Now some people may call and not leave a message. And that’s okay with me.

I figure that the people who don’t leave messages have their reasons. One might be they are not motivated. Another might be that they were tire kickers. They may also have a penchant for secrecy, so that even if I managed to get their number, when I try to call the SECOND time, they may well screen the call. So again, I don’t worry about the people who call and don’t leave a message.

Staying in control

The second thing answering by voice mail does is give you a name and number you can call on your own terms, at your own time. What I mostly don’t do is to answer my phone. Why? When you answer your phone the caller controls the conversation at the outset. You’re unbalanced because you don’t know what the caller is calling about. When you get good at handling the telephone this is easy to handle, but for beginners it’s much easier to collect calls on a voice mail.

Now you have a name and number of someone who called an ad designed to produce sellers. You’re ready to call back. What do you say? I would start something like this:

Mr. Smith, my name is Jim Piper. You called on an ad in the Metropolitan newspaper that said “I Buy Houses.” How can I help you?

What does this do? It throws the ball to the seller. He’s now required to give you an answer to an open-ended question. In other words, he can’t answer by saying “Yes” or “No.” He’s required to talk. You’re now firmly in control of the conversation. The next thing you do is shut up and listen! Allow the seller to take the conversation where he wants to go. Don’t interrupt!

Your agenda

Just because the seller is now talking doesn’t mean you don’t have an agenda. You do. Here’s your agenda. You want to determine if the seller has a property for sale. If he does, you want to determine the details of the property such as location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage, basement, and overall condition.

You want to determine the details about the existing financing on the property. What type of loan is it, what is the loan amount, what is the interest rate, when was the loan originated, what are the monthly payments, is the loan current, etc.

You want to determine the seller’s perception of the value of the property, how quickly he needs to sell. You want to determine the motivation level of the seller. This is your agenda. Until you know the answer to these questions (and others) you can’t know whether there is a deal, or have any clue as to how to do the deal.

Get answers before you look at the property

The above agenda should be firmly in your mind as the phone conversation begins. If you can’t remember it, have your questions written down on a piece of paper next to your phone. Your goal is to get the answers to all of these questions BEFORE you make a decision to get up out of your chair to go look at the property.

If you run into a problem and forget what you want to ask–don’t panic. Simply tell the seller you have another call coming in, and place the seller on hold. Now you sit quietly at your desk and review your notes.

When you’re ready get back on the line with the seller, apologize, tell him your phone has been ringing off the hook today, and ask your next question. As a matter of fact, this will help to strengthen your stance. Everyone likes to do business with someone who is busy. You might try putting people on hold for that reason alone.

Here’s where the call gets more complicated. The seller is talking, but he may not be talking about what you want to know, or in the order that you want the information. That’s okay, too. Take notes on what the seller is saying. Periodically summarize. Then ask your next question.

“Mr Smith, so you have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home and the roof leaks. How old is the furnace?”

Your questions are a track to run on, a place to come back to when the seller strays.

“Mr. Smith, coming back to the financing for a second, does that monthly payment include taxes and insurance?”

During the phone call the seller may ask you questions. It’s OK to answer a question, as long as you reestablish control following the question.

Example: “Do you charge a commission?” “No, Mr. Smith, I don’t. I’m not a real estate broker. I simply buy houses as real estate investments investments. (Pause) How did you determine that particular value for your property?”

Example: “What would you pay me for my house?” “Mr. Smith, it would be impossible for me to know that right now before I know your situation completely and before I have seen the property. What were you wanting for the house?”

Who, what, where, when, why and how

Remember the 5 Ws? Who, what, where, when, and why. Add to these the word “How” and write them down by your other questions. These are powerful words. These are probing words that enable you to find out more information about the seller’s comments. Use these frequently.

“Why do you need to sell so quickly Mr. Smith?” “Where will you be moving if you sell you house, Mr. Smith.” “Why do you say that Mr. Smith”? “How did that happen Mr. Smith?”

Notice that these words force open-ended answers? In other words, the seller can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended answers ALWAYS produce more information than the answer to a close-ended question.

Your job is to ask all the questions necessary to get a complete picture of the property, together with financial information regarding the property, and a psychological picture of where the seller is. Keep asking questions until you have this complete picture. Then, and only then, will you know whether the pre-conditions for a deal exist.

Depending on the answers, you may wish to make an appointment to see the property. Or you may wish to handle it differently.

“Okay, Mr. Smith, here’s where we go from here. I’ll need to do a little homework on my end to figure out if your property meets my criteria. If it does, I’ll need to see the property. When would be a good time to call you back?”

This buys you some time to evaluate whether it is in your interest to go look at the property. But don’t take too much time with this process because, if the seller is motivated, he will sell the property quickly.

The perfect phone call

The perfect phone call is one where the seller is talking, and you’re listening. The perfect phone call is one where your questions are giving you information, and the questions are leading the conversation to it’s conclusion. The conclusion of the perfect phone call is either setting an appointment to view the property, or informing the seller that you have no interest in the property.

The purpose of the perfect phone call is not to make a verbal offer. Last time I looked, an offer can’t be signed over the telephone. The perfect phone call elicits information which enables you to determine whether you want to pursue the deal.

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