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Strategic Trigger Questions

Flipping through the May 2020 issue of interior design magazine Elle Decor (ED), scrumptious decor wasn’t the only inspiration that leapt off the page.

My attention was drawn to three cleverly-insightful questions a designer used to qualify a prospective client and deliver a stunning, on-point lifestyle outcome.

The “Heart and Sole” interview with celebrity red-sole-shoe designer Christian Louboutin shared a behind-the-scenes perspective on the renovation of his Paris rooftop apartment with its Eiffel Tower views. Louboutin gave credit for the amazing space to much-in-demand Jacques Grange who Louboutin described as at the pinnacle of French decorating.

That decorating skill appears to be matched by Grange’s communication prowess.

“Jacques [Grange] said, ‘I’m going to ask you three questions,’ ” the shoemaker to the stars told [the ED writer]. “If you answer them truthfully, I’ll do your apartment.

“First,” Louboutin continues, “Grange asks me: ‘Are you messy?’ Second: ‘Do you like to host?’ And third: ‘Do you want an extra bedroom?’ ”

The article goes on to reveal how Louboutin’s short answers influenced the clever interior design. Based on Louboutin’s responses, the loft apartment was deliberately designed to make overnight guests uncomfortable enough not to stay for long.

That designed-in reaction may or may not make sense to you. What’s important is that this is exactly what Louboutin wanted—he just didn’t realize it himself.

Do the qualifying and interview questions—what I call “strategic trigger questions”—you ask prospective buyers provide the degree of insight necessary for you to hit the “lifestyle nail” on the head in selecting properties to show, even when the prospect is not fully aware of what they need?

This knowledge gap is common with first-time and first-time-in-a-long-time buyers who may have little recent real estate buying experience to call on and little knowledge of interior design.

You are not a “do you want fries with that” order taker, peppering prospects with just-the-facts, closed questions. Your intent is not to merely discuss which features buyers want: number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, layout style, kitchen appliance finish, size of garage…etc.

Time is money for you and your prospects, so showing the right enticing properties will generate offers more effectively than showing every listing that’s in their price range.

Which questions do you ask prospective buyers to reveal the type of decision-maker you’ll be working with?

For example:

• “Are you good at compromising or do you definitely know what you want?”
A conversation starter like this will help you evaluate how clearly prospects know what they want and how well they know their own buying habits.

• “How do you feel most comfortable when making a significant decision?”
The resulting discussion will reveal which information or decision-making techniques buyers may rely on.

What do you feel you need to understand about prospects before you show them a house or even online listings?

Your key function is helping prospective buyers transform their thinking about a property that is someone else’s house into an emotional connection with their future home, even if the decor does not match their taste. The challenge lies in nurturing this bond without pressure or trickery and without buyers spending time lounging around the house or trying it out in a sleepover.

How do you assist prospects in moving relatively quickly from first stepping foot inside, or clicking on a virtual tour, to the significant financial transaction—perhaps the largest purchase of their life—without pressuring them?

• What questions do you ask to help prospects move through this visualization when they spent only a short time walking or video-traveling through a house or condominium unit. How do you help them put the process in perspective?
•Real estate professionals must help already-stressed buyers quickly generate enough genuine emotional attachment to welcome creation of an offer to purchase and signing on the dotted line. Which questions help transform the desire to buy a house into the commitment to buy a home, kindling love in the process?
• During the offer process, which questions do you use to help buyers strengthen their perspective during the shift from thinking about a stranger’s house to this is my next home? How do your questions help reduce stress-levels during offer preparation and signing?
• You can’t take buyer descriptors like “I like character” for granted. Make no assumptions. What do you ask about to clarify their preferences and how they want to feel about their new living spaces?
• “Are you more sure about what you don’t like or want than what you do?”

You know which features and levels of update most properties in a buyer’s price range and location will exhibit. How do you use strategic trigger questions to assess their potential reactions and prepare them for what lies ahead?

If you don’t understand the value of answers to the questions above, you’re wasting your time and probably that of prospects, too.

Depending on the market and price range you work in and how affordable that real estate is for the prospects you target, you’ll have honed a set of key strategic trigger questions that enables you to cut to the heart of the project on hand and help buyers feel comfortable and confident with their related decisions.

Real estate professionals have earned a reputation for selling real estate. The problem is that some prospects are nervous that professionals are so good at what they do that they’ll sell a buyer a property the buyer won’t like, can’t afford, or that will cause them nothing but disappointment—just to earn commission.

How can you dispel this lingering stereotype and build credibility?

The empathy and integrity you display as you ask conversation-triggering, open-ended questions and actively listen to buyers’ answers will build credibility and earn loyalty.

• Demonstrate that the importance of their lifestyle fit is high on your priorities for them.
• Explain why this is an important perspective for identifying the best property match for them.
• Your questioning should revolve around the real estate benefits, not features, that prospects will value in the selected neighborhoods and the range of properties found there.

Louboutin’s designer wanted to understand how the celebrity shoemaker intended to live in the space with his possessions, including 50 pairs of shoes. His answers —“I can host.” “I don’t want a guest room.”—to the designer’s initial questions, led the designer to create an open loft space for entertaining, a master bedroom that could hide mess, and a second bedroom without a door and no ensuite.

Louboutin reportedly warned a potential guest that she could visit but that she might be “uncomfortable.” When she asked why, he answered “Well, that’s the idea.”

Written by PJ Wade for Copyright © 2020 Realty Times All Rights Reserved. For additional forward-thinking articles by PJ Wade, visit PJ’s RT column “Decisions & Communities”