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Dream Big!

What to Say When...

I object!
Looking for just the right thing to say when a seller or buyer raises an objection? Here’s your go-to guide.

Coaches and trainers are hearing the same lament from sales associates over and over: “I’m hearing new objections, and I’m not sure the best way to respond. What should I say when …?”

If you’re encountering new challenges in this transitional market, don’t be afraid. We’ve caught up with six top coaches and trainers and asked them their best advice for responding to consumers’ concerns. Here, we crystallize their expertise on today’s most common objections and provide you with advice and dialogue you can use—right now.

The Biggie: Sellers Are Stubborn on Price
Top coaches and trainers report that the most common challenge that sales associates face today is dealing with sellers who insist on overpricing their home because they stubbornly refuse to accept that markets have changed. The best way to respond is to show sellers the current market data.

“The No. 1 thing to do is show people the numbers,” says Bill Barrett, a real estate trainer based in Orlando. Barrett suggests that when you go on a listing presentation, you should bring along charts showing market data—interest rates, list to sale ratios, list price to sale price ratios, inventory, number of days on market and average sale price—from five years ago, one year ago, six months ago, one month ago and now.

“Then [you] can convince people of what’s going on in the market,” says Barrett. “It’s not about a bunch of words; it’s about a bunch of numbers.”

“I want [sales associates] to put the proof where their mouth is,” agrees Carla Cross, CRB, president of Carla Cross Seminars Inc. in Issaquah, Wash. “Quit trying to [use sales talk when working with] sellers, even if you know what you’re saying is true, and provide evidence that the overpricing strategy is a very poor one. If a home is overpriced, it won’t sell. When you show comps, show the consequences of the pricing strategy, and those consequences are predictable.”

To do that, Cross recommends that you give sellers a specific example of a home similar to theirs that was overpriced, sat on the market, had several price reductions and finally sold for less than its value. Then show sellers a similar home listed at the right price that sold for full or close to market price.

In addition to showing sellers current market data, Barrett also recommends that you counsel them on the long-term value of real estate and give them a choice about the way to proceed. Here are a few examples of possible dialogue:

“If you bought your house X years ago, you’ll probably earn X percent over the life of your investment. It’s terrific that you earned such a profit. Given that, do you feel OK that you might not get the same price that your neighbor got several months ago?”

“How many times have you bought a house? Did you make or lose money on any of those? If you keep this house another two or three years, you’ll probably make money. Perhaps instead of selling, you might rent out your home. That’s an option for you. My job is to give you the options.”

“What do you think will happen in the next six months?” If sellers say the market might drop even further, you might say: “Exactly, so you need to price your home realistically now so that you get today’s price rather than the price six months from now, when you’ll be even more unhappy.”

Floyd Wickman, a speaker and trainer and founder of the Floyd Wickman Team LLC in Easton, Mass., teaches what he calls “the power of questioning,” in which you ask consumers questions that let them reach the best answer on their own. With stubborn sellers, Wickman suggests you use what he calls “the dilemma dialogue” to handle the pricing objection even before it comes up.

“First, you should always have a ballpark idea of how much sellers think their home is worth before you give them your price,” says Wickman. “When you find that out and know your price and theirs aren’t going to match, which is almost always the case, you can use the dilemma dialogue.” The discussion should go something like this:

Sales associate: From what I’ve shown you about my company and the way we market homes, if we could agree on price, would you let me handle the sale?

Seller: Yes.

Sales associate: Before we get into price, I have a little dilemma I’d like to check with you first.

Sellers: Sure.

Sales associate: If you remember, I asked you questions about your property. I needed the answers to pull what we call comparable sales. I have a couple of comparable sales so that we won’t have to guess at your price, but I ran into one little snag. I asked you what you thought your property was roughly worth, and as hard as I tried, I wasn’t able to substantiate that figure.

What if, after all your efforts to get sellers to list at market price, they still want what Mike Ferry calls last year’s price this year? “You should walk away,” says Ferry, owner of the Mike Ferry Organization, a training and coaching company based in Irvine, Calif. “If sellers’ motivation isn’t at the highest level, their property’s not going to sell today.”

More Answers to Even More Objections
In addition to the challenge of realistic pricing, the experts also offered their best advice on less common but still problematic objections that sales associates are encountering today. Following are typical objections, along with suggested responses:

Objection: I want to sign a three-month—not a six-month—listing.

Response: Show sellers market data and tell them why your marketing services are unique, says Barrett. “Look at the inventory and time on market. The average house stays on the market 4.9 months [use current data] now. I’m investing money in marketing your property. Here’s how I market to other sales associates. Of 800 real estate professionals in the market, I’ll do an e-mail blast to the top 120 tonight to show them your listing. To the top 50 agents, I send just-listed cards to their home, and to the top 25 agents, I send a four-page brochure. Nobody invests as much as I do. That’s why I need six months. The question is, do you want your house sold and sold for the optimum price?”

Objection: You’re a new sales associate. Why should I work with you?

Response 1: “This is huge, and we blow it off in training and say, ‘You won’t be new forever,’” says Cross. “But [sales associates] are absolutely unprepared to handle this. You need to show consumers that you know what you’re doing and that you have the resources to provide the best service possible.”

Cross says this is the best response: “Yes, I certainly know you want somebody dedicated to you. I’ve done two things to ensure that you’re going to get the best service from me. I’ve gone through a high-quality, extensive coaching program where I was put through the wringer. Also, my background is that I’ve [fill in your impressive experience], which gave me the organization, marketing and communication skills to work with you. I’ve spent the earlier part of my life in businesses that prepared me for real estate.”

Response 2: “[Sales associates] are questioned about their experience because they don’t have any confidence in their presentations to start with,” says Ferry. “If they display no confidence, consumers will work with somebody else.”

Ferry says you have to practice, memorize and internalize your listing presentation so that sellers can’t tell if you’re new or experienced. If consumers still ask how long you’ve been in the business, Ferry says you should tell the truth: “I’ve been in the business X years. But my experience isn’t the issue, is it? The issue is, can my office and I get your home sold? and the answer is yes, if you price it competitively. Are you willing to price it competitively?”

Objection: I’ll sell on my own so that I can avoid paying a commission.

Response: When sellers want to go FSBO, Danielle Kennedy, a trainer and owner of Danielle Kennedy Productions in Pacific Palisades, Calif., recommends letting them know that you respect their right to try to sell on their own but that if they aren’t successful, you’d like the opportunity to show them how you’d market their home. “Can I have your permission to stay in touch in case Plan A doesn’t work? I’d like to have the opportunity to tell you about Plan B—how a professional would handle this.”

Then put the sellers on your follow-up list to “stay in close touch without bugging them,” says Kennedy. “Let them try it on their own and see how tough it is.”

Whether you face these challenges or entirely new ones you’ve never heard before, Kennedy says, these suggested scripts are just that—suggestions. Your own answers must come from the heart and from logic, research and experience. “This isn’t about technique or manipulation,” she says. “It’s about listening, seeing what the current situation is, and being an ethical problem solver.”

G.M. Filisko is a Chicago-based lawyer and freelance writer.