Building Rapport on the Phone

Today we will discuss the value of building rapport on the phone.  Rapport is that sense of ease and comfort you get with someone when you feel you’re speaking the same language and you’re on the same level.  Rapport can give rise to feelings of trust and connection, and there are many methods to help rapport develop.  In face-to-face communication, there are many cues which help us build and maintain rapport because we can see the other party, read their body language and observe their reactions and patterns of movement.  Building rapport on the phone, however, can be different.

smile-on-the-phoneAs investors we spend much of our time dealing with prospects by phone; this can be a very impersonal medium of communication.  It adds a significant level of complexity to our effort to establish rapport.  When I can’t see you, I am unable to read your non-verbal cues and you won’t be able to read mine either.  When talking on the phone, what should you be thinking about to increase your probability of building rapport?

First, always remember you have a powerful persuasion tool at your disposal.  It’s your voice.  Your ability to speak with flexibility, fluency, and control can have amazing results.  Now if you’re shy, don’t like talking to people, have a weak vocabulary, and/or a bland, boring or irritating voice, you have a decision to make; become a mime or cultivate some verbal and vocal skills.  With the exception of Marcel Marceau, I’m not aware of any wealthy mimes.

Some years ago I was interviewing a candidate for a sales job and I noticed that she spoke more quickly than anyone I’d ever met. I don’t know if she was nervous or if that’s how she spoke normally. I smiled to myself because I knew one thing for sure: this person spends quite a lot of their time frustrated because they’re listening to people who talk way too slow.

job_interviewYou might be asking yourself, “How did he know that?” People tend to talk at the rate they think, and tend to want others to talk at that rate too.  Being a former New Yorker, when I began traveling on business I was amazed to learn that not everyone in the country speaks as fast as we did in the Big Apple.  Some of my New York friends can speak so fast, you get tired just listening to them.

It was the same with this job candidate, almost no-one could talk at the rate she did, so I knew she would often feel others were talking too slow.  So why was I smiling?  I knew I could give her a much more enjoyable interview experience than she was used to; I immediately set my voice speed to super-fast and the interview proceeded very well. She got the job and was very successful in the territory she served.  A few years later we tried her in the South; she had a very difficult transition until she learned that her voice was a key tool in her ability to be successful.

So how do you develop vocal qualities? Practice, practice, practice! There are five key qualities that you can…and should…develop.  They are:

  1. tonality (movement from low to high pitch and vice versa)
  2. pitch (how high or low your voice is in general)
  3. speed (how quickly you speak)
  4. volume (loud or soft speech)
  5. timbre (like the difference between a pop singer and an opera singer singing the same note – much different)

The best way I have found to develop vocal qualities and speech patterns is to take them to extremes. Some people are naturally soft spoken and therefore viewed by many as timid.  Others are loud and considered overbearing.  Those that speak fast are sometimes thought of as con artists, while a slow speaker is thought to be slow minded.  None of these assumptions are true; nevertheless, if you put a soft spoken person in a conversation with a loud talker, rapport can be very difficult if the loud person scares the daylights out of the other.  I once participated in an exercise where I was supposed to talk as fast as I could while my partner spoke as slowly as they could, the frustration for both of us was incredible.

That was a practice session, but I recall similar feelings of frustration early in my career as the young gun looking for big sales numbers.  I got along great with prospects that were fast talkers, but if they were a slow talker, we just couldn’t get in sync.  Finally, I got the message. Mirroring speech patterns; such as volume, tonality and speed, can make the other person more comfortable because you are dealing with them in a manner that is familiar to them.

tape recorderDealing with people on the phone is definitely a skill and it is a skill that can be developed.  You should tape record yourself speaking normally, at a rate that is comfortable for you. Increase the rate, until you are talking very fast.  Then speed it up until you’re speaking way too fast.  Then speed it up further until you’re speaking so fast it’s coming out faster than you can think.  Then gradually slow it all the way down until you’re speaking way too slow.  Take note of your feelings as you’re changing tempo, volume or any of the other qualities you are practicing.

By going to the extremes you can develop the flexibility you’ll need to start matching people’s speed.  Matching someone’s speaking speed is a quick way to start establishing rapport.  Tip for doing this: listen to them.  Before long, you will be able to pick up someone’s speed in the first few seconds of a conversation.

Once you’ve mastered vocal speed, practice similar exercises for the following vocal qualities: pitch, tone and volume. Once again, take it to the limits, then go beyond them.  As for timbre (voice character); this is a bit more difficult to change, however, it can be done.  If you think (or someone has told you) that you have a strange or annoying (some call is ‘distinct’) voice, you can try to modify your timbre by impersonating another voice.  At first this will be very strange and unnatural, but eventually it will be easier.

confidence-coaching-picAs with any new skill, you may find these exercises a bit unnatural.  Most people are not familiar with talking outside their usual range.  With a little practice you will quickly begin to see the benefits as you start to develop more flexibility.  In my workshops, I like to create environments where people feel comfortable going outside of their comfort zone, so allow yourself to have that experience with these exercises.

Once you have learned to control and vary your vocal characteristics, you are one step closer to mastering the art of rapport building in both face to face and phone interactions. When it comes to the telephone:

  1. Think about your objective for the call: What do I want to accomplish on this call? How will I know I have achieved it?
  2. Put yourself in a positive state of mind: This is the best way to put someone else in a positive frame of mind. If you want other people to feel relaxed and at ease, make sure you feel relaxed and at ease. Did a cranky person ever cheer anyone up? (This is easier to do when making scheduled calls, but you can develop and learn skills to do this virtually on command.)
  3. Establish rapport: some of the best ways to do this on the phone include:
    1. Talking at the same speed as the other person. This will make for easier listening for your client and not threaten or frustrate them. People like what’s familiar and their rate of speech is something their subconscious will recognize and appreciate.
    2. Smile when talking on the phone; it projects a positive attitude
    3. Adjusting your voice tone so that it is similar to theirs – listen to how they speak and sound, match them when and where appropriate.
    4. Matching your volume and excitement levels as needed. Speak softly and they have to focus more to listen, use volume to express excitement or gain agreement.
    5. Matching voice pitch so it’s similar to theirs. At the end of a statement, a rising pitch can make you sound weak or confused whereas a downswing will sound confident and assuring. Try it with the tag phrase, “Don’t you agree?” When you end with a downswing it sounds more like a confirming statement. With a rising tone it sounds like you’re not really sure whether they’ll agree or not.
  4. Visualize: The voice on the other end of the phone is a real person, so create a mental image of that person. Imagine the expression on their face; observe their verbal responses to what you say. And always begin by believing that the call will have a positive result for both parties.
  5. Show genuine interest: Be curious. Learn their needs and motivation. Some of the most powerful messages you can give to someone are “I am interested in you”, “I care about your well-being” and “You are important to me.” Remember the best outcome is a win/win conclusion. And the quickest way to get these ideas across in your communication is to mean it. When you mean it, you come across as being genuine, and the communication will flow more easily. Another term to describe this is congruent. This means that what you say, feel and believe are all in sync.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the technology of rapport (matching body language and speech patterns, etc.) that we forget what it’s about: connecting with another human being. The behavioral elements of rapport are just a way to allow that connection to emerge more rapidly.

As a side note: Scripts are a critical tool for communicating but if you can’t build rapport with your prospect, knowing all the scripts in the world won’t help you to be successful. Building rapport remains one of the best methods for building bridges and closing sales, so why not start sharpening your tools today!

5 Questions Guaranteed to Improve Success with Sellers

Many times when we’re speaking with a seller, we are so excited to tell them everything we can do for them that we forget to find out what they need. You end up wasting their time and your time, and 9 times out of 10, the conversation will end without getting a deal or the information needed to understand their motivational trigger. Once you learn their motivational trigger, you can relate your offers back and link your solution to their problem. This way they see your offer as a way to rid themselves of their problem, and that’s exactly what you want to do, isn’t it? What I’d like to talk about today is actually a technique used by marketing professionals when they perform market research for future products. The same principles can be used when you’re speaking with a seller. If you really think about it, you are fulfilling the role of a Market Researcher, Product Developer (Solutions Provider) and Salesperson, all during the first 5-10 minutes of speaking with a potential seller. Today I want to talk about the role of Market Researcher.

The 5 Why’s

In a presentation, I once heard: “The most potent ideas are those that appeal to people on a very deep level.” This is where the 5 why’s come in. When you first meet your seller, you probably know very little about them. You may THINK you know about them based upon the part of town they live in, or how they sound on the telephone, but do you REALLY know the seller’s motivation? You need to be ready to ask the question “why?” You should also be ready to ask it repeatedly. Here is an example:

Me: Hi, Seller, with the market in a slump and more houses for sale than ever before, why would you be trying to sell your house now?
Seller: I just think it’s time to move on.

Me: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. Why do you feel you need to move on?
Seller: I’m just sick of paying for this house. You know?

Me: Yeah, I hear that from lots of sellers. For you, why are you sick of paying for the house?
Seller: It’s just too much headache. It’s a money-pit. It just seemed like less work when I was renting. I don’t like all of the upkeep.

Me: Why don’t you just hire a handyman and a landscaper?
Seller: I usually like to do my own work but don’t have the time.

Me: Headache, money pit, upkeep? It sounds like what you’re telling me is that the expenses of maintaining your home are becoming overwhelming.
Seller: It’s just too costly. I’m having trouble affording it.

Me: Why is that such a concern to you?
Seller: Because I value my credit.

So, in my example, I only needed 4 why’s to get pretty close to his motivational trigger but he has a financial problem and also wants to save his credit. It’s ok to throw in a couple of “non-why” questions in between, but you have to be prepared to ask the question “why” up to five times. If I would have just stopped at the first questions, I would have to appeal to a very broad desire to move: “It’s time to move on.” That could mean anything. Because I asked “why” five times, I now know that the seller doesn’t want the house because of cost, maintenance, and everything else related to owning a home. I also know the seller values their credit. I even know the seller would rather rent, so they have the potential to be one of my future tenants.

Remember to ask why. Depending on the situation, you may identify the root cause of the seller’s motivation in as little as three questions, but it could also take up to five. It all depends on how good your questions are, and how willing your seller is to open up to you and give information.

In my next post related to Success with Sellers, I will cover how the Real Estate Investor plays the role of Product Developer (Solutions Provider).

If you’re interested in reading more on the 5 Why’s, read these articles I found on the Internet:

The “Five Whys” of Branding
Ask Yourself Five Whys And It Will Solve All Your Problems

Tips for Buying Short Sales

I’m writing this post in response to an article I read called Short Sales – What They Aren’t Telling You I found while surfing around the Internet the other day.  The post’s main objective is to separate myth from reality on the following topics: Price, Broker Price Options (BPOs), and Motivation/Expectation of the Buyer.

The information in this post is very good. I’d also recommend realtors and investors alike to consider the buyer’s exit strategy for the property before making offers. There are properties that lend themselves to successful short sale and properties that don’t. As a principal in over 100 transactions, I prefer to work with sellers where there is a first and second (and even a third mortgage). Seconds and thirds tend to get wiped out if a property goes all the way to the foreclosure or sheriff sale. They know this and will usually take very steep discounts whereas, the first mortgage holder is in the safest position and accordingly the least flexible position. That said, by discounting seconds and thirds you may not even have to deal with the first to get your buyer a satisfactory price.

With regard to BPO’s I’ve had success in requesting a second/interior BPO. If the deal is strong enough, I may even offer to pay for it. We look for houses that will be difficult for the banks to sell, either because of structural damage, issues in a neighborhood as escalating crime or the prospect of local economic problems such as plant closings or other factors that affect employment. The writer’s observation that the loss mitigator (bank rep) is clueless about the market where the property is located couldn’t be more correct so we like to paint as clear a picture as possible and provide them comps, articles, and days on market as a starting point. Then I like to ask them the question… If you complete the foreclosure action, take back the property, secure it, repair it and maintain it for the next 6 months, what do you think your company will actually net (especially when considering the impact of their loan loss reserve requirement)? This can help bring the lender back to reality. If not, we can always buy it as a REO!

Want to know more about short sales?  Check out this article I found on the Internet.

How to Buy a Short Sale
As loans default, banks become more willing to sell the properties to investors for less than what is required to satisfy the loan. In some cases, banks will let a property go for 50% of value.

Create Predictable Profit on Every Deal

Real Estate Investors can easily get a seller to take a 10 to 20% discount by using the cost-to-sell guidelines, showing the seller what they might net by selling their house traditionally. This is done by subtracting all selling expenses (realtor commission, closing costs, holding costs, maintenance and home inspection “gotcha’s,” etc.) from their asking price. Sometimes you can get them to go even a little lower by asking if it’s okay if you made a small profit on the deal (Hey, you’re a real estate investor and you have to put food on the table too, right?). Then lower again if you take the property ‘as is.’ And even lower if you give them some or all of their equity in cash now instead of later.

If you can reasonably estimate the price you can sell the house by offering owner financing or a lease option to your buyer, you can then calculate the maximum allowable price you can pay the seller. If you can buy at a discount with owner financing, and keep that financing in place and sell at a premium, there should be little difficulty creating a 15 to 25% equity spread. But remember, holding for years rather than months is where you begin to build wealth.

Good Questions Beget Good Responses

Working with two of my PACT coaching (future real estate investor) clients recently, we were discussing why they were having difficulty getting their offers accepted. As we began to explore the situation, we discovered that although these students had become very good at information gathering, they still needed to “peel the onion” a bit more. Onions have many layers and so do people. When we dig deeper, we can learn how to meet the other party’s needs by simply understanding what those needs are.

The students had become very adept at learning lots of useful information about the property, existing financing, and needed repairs; the problem was that they hadn’t learned the seller’s motivational trigger. What was the problem the seller needed solved? What was keeping them up at night?

As we peeled further, we found that their offers were sort of like a shot gun blast – ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ rather than a rifle shot targeted on the problem. When you make a cash-offer to a seller in need of cash, even a low one, then aim at the need. “This offer will get you the cash you need to buy that ______ or to pay off that _______. And that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it?” If they need some money now and can wait for the rest of their equity but need a higher price than your all cash offer, then link the offer to that need. “This offer gives you the cash to move now and start your new job without having to worry about two mortgage payments and that’s exactly the peace of mind you’re looking for, isn’t it?” The same concept applies to a no cash offer or a seller financed offer. Take into consideration the seller’s needs and solve their problem.

I’ve gotten zero interest seller-financing because the biggest problem the seller had was his ego. He wanted to brag to his friends that he got his full asking price. So I let him brag and I got my terms. Both of our needs were met because I took the time to understand his needs and found a way to meet them. You can do the same. Just remember, good questions beget good responses!