Real Estate

How to master the art of listening

Deep and attentive listening allows you to slow down, think and intentionally understand consumers' needs, writes Chris Heller of OJO Labs

In the fast-paced world of real estate, success hinges on the ability to connect with clients.

Recently, I dedicated some time to listening in on phone conversations between real estate agents and prospective homebuyers during their initial interactions. From this experience, one overarching and fundamental theme emerged: the importance of listening.

During my time listening in, it became evident that many agents miss the mark when it comes to truly listening to their clients. It wasn’t a matter of failing to hear their words, rather, not understanding underlying thoughts, desires, and concerns that existed beneath them.

With decades of experience in the industry, from selling homes to leading top-performing real estate teams to serving as a seasoned executive within the real estate sector, I have had my fair share of first conversations and have a good understanding of how to master the art of listening.

A valuable trick to use if you find yourself reading this and thinking how am I supposed to listen beyond words, here’s a valuable practice. Ask yourself, “What might prompt someone to say what they’re saying?”

If you can’t instantly answer that question, then ask more questions.

Delve deeper into the conversation. Engage with inquiries like “Tell me more about that,” “What do you mean by that,” “Why is that important,” or “What I hear you saying is…, does that resonate?” There’s an excellent book titled “QBQ: The Question Behind the Question” that I highly recommend for further insights into this concept.

In addition to attentive listening, I’d like to emphasize two other crucial pieces of advice: cultivating trust and sharing enthusiasm. It came to my attention that during initial calls, some agents immediately adopted what I refer to as “interrogation mode,” bombarding clients with intrusive financial and personal questions right from the start.

I believe that this harms the relationship because it’s challenging for individuals to divulge personal information without a foundation of trust between them and the agent. Trust stands as a cornerstone in this industry, and, in my opinion, agents must invest more effort in gradually building rapport and confidence before delving into sensitive matters.

Just as misery loves company, so does enthusiasm. On these calls, I observed a lack of enthusiasm among agents. Enthusiasm plays a pivotal role for home buyers, given the magnitude and significance of the transactions they are embarking upon.

Without genuine excitement, the overall client experience is compromised, because homebuyers are seeking an agent who is genuinely excited to assist them in this significant life milestone.

I also made note of a few mistakes that are easily fixable. Simple yet crucial elements, such as discussing clear next steps, sharing contact information (including email and text), and not scheduling the next appointment, were overlooked. These oversights serve as valuable reminders of the importance of thorough communication and follow-up in our interactions.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with the art of listening and how it is a common theme. At the end of the day, every consumer you encounter represents a unique opportunity — whether for immediate business, future collaborations, referrals, or building your network.

Deep and attentive listening allows you to slow down, think and intentionally understand the needs of the consumer. Once you begin to really listen, you will start to place the needs of the consumer (trust, excitement, clear follow-ups)  above your immediate need to sell and, in turn, your first conversations will be more impactful and authentic.

At the end of the day, whether people want to be heard, it is your job as their potential real estate agent to listen.

Chris Heller is Chief Real Estate Officer with OJO Labs.

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