Over the last 11 years, I’ve coached and mentored numerous women in real estate and I have come to learn that there is a fear that most of us have and it’s probably not what you’d think. Obviously we’ve all worried that we could go bankrupt or get sued, but those are to be expected and just come with the territory of being an entrepreneur. I’m talking about a fear that so many realtors have, that can actually be addressed and be one less fear we have to worry about. So what is it? It's being asked a question that you don’t know how to answer.
Now even though I consider myself a very trustworthy, transparent and authentic realtor and person in general, make no mistake about it, I can bullshit with the best of them. So when this fear came up for so many women, I was a bit lost. I didn’t feel like I could relate. But then I remembered a painful, deeply buried incident that happened to me in my 2nd year of real estate. I’ll tell you about that a bit later…
You see my problem, was that I WASN’T afraid of being asked a question I didn’t know the answer to. I should have been, but it just wasn’t in my DNA. I had honed the art of bullshit early on in my corporate career and could pretty much dance around any topic thrown my way . You see when I wanted a job, I didn’t peruse the ads looking for jobs that I was qualified for. I perused the ads looking for jobs I wanted and then looked at the qualifications and went and got them.
Without giving you my whole life story here, I was raised by a single dad who was a quintessential entrepreneur and when I graduated from University, the natural (and easy) route was to go work for one of his companies. Well after doing that for 2 years, I stubbornly decided to get a job and move out of his cushy house where I had everything I needed for free and go rent a cockroach infested apartment in a seriously sketchy building. I had this need to prove to him that I could do it all on my own, that I didn’t need him and that I was a strong, capable, successful woman.
So I researched companies and decided I wanted to work for the head office of Canadian Tire. Now any of you Americans may not know them, but it is an iconic Canadian company that has an incredible reputation for employee satisfaction and job happiness.
So for a few months, I scoured the newspapers every day looking for jobs there….yes, back then that’s how you found jobs. I’m aging myself here.
Anyway, One day an ad showed up and it was for a graphic designer. I didn’t even really know what that meant, but I looked through the qualifications and thought “I could do that.” So I spent the next week prepping for that job interview as though I was studying to write my m-cats. There was a high probability that I was going to be asked a question I didn’t know how to answer, given I wasn’t even a graphic designer.
I brainstormed and researched every thing I could about graphic design so that I knew just enough that I could throw out a few buzz words and it would sound like I knew what I was talking about. Long story short I got the job and I spent 7 very happy years working there. As an aside, they really are a great company to work for.
So that is the first strategy. I want you to set aside an hour, in a quiet place undistracted. Turn your phone off so you can focus. I want you to brainstorm all of the things you’ve worried about, the things you don’t really know too much about and jot them all down. I want you to think about all of the things you’ve worried you might get asked, that will stump you. Now this exercise can be hard sometimes because you don’t know, what you don’t know, but I cannot stress the importance of this exercise enough. Even if you’ve never worried about this topic for a second, I still recommend you do this. I didn’t worry about this happening to me and as I said earlier, I should have. When I was just a newbie in my 2nd year in real estate, these investors found me online and asked if I would meet them to chat about buying some investment properties. They had a budget of like 5 million dollars and I naively thought I could help them. Long story short, in that 30 minute meeting, I didn’t get asked just one question I didn’t know how to answer. I got asked about a hundred. It was utterly humiliating. I got schooled and I learned two things. One, was that I had no business being there in the first place. I was so not qualified to work with those buyers and 2) was that I needed a strategy to make sure that never happened again.
So the first strategy is to brainstorm all of the things that you don’t know enough about and
The second strategy, is pretty obvious. The list that you just created is all the stuff that you’re not as well-educated as you should be, so go get yourself more educated! Remember you don’t have to know every single detail about the topic, but you do need to know enough to establish credibility and you need to know enough to keep you out of trouble. The more you know the better.
The side effect of this part of the exercise, is that it will really boost your confidence in general. The more competent you are, the more confident you’ll be and that confidence is a HUGE part of how successful you’ll be in this business. I am cocky as hell when it comes to most things real estate, because I know my stuff inside and out now. When I walk into a meeting with a new potential client, I control the dialogue. When clients feel that confidence, they just defer to you as the expert. There’s no wishy washyness and clients will come to trust you implicitly.
Next I want you to prioritize this list. I want you to put the stuff that you don’t know as well as you should, that could also get you in trouble, at the top of the list. Let me give you an example. Not knowing your daily website traffic count is not going to have the same risk as not knowing that a support wall in a home was removed without a proper beam being installed. The latter scenario could actually get you into huge legal trouble, so gaining that knowledge needs to be a higher priority than understanding some tech related to your website. However the goal here is to work your way through the entire list and have a response prepared to all of those questions you identified in your list.
One other tip that I find super helpful in establishing credibility is to use every opportunity you can to demonstrate your extensive knowledge, even when you haven’t been asked a specific question. As an example, a woman came into our brokerage wanting to know if she dug down her basement would it add value and approximately how much it would cost. Being able to answer those questions is great, and one of the agents on our team did that, but this woman was about to leave, so I popped in on the conversation and used it as an opportunity to add even more value and solidify ourselves as knowledgeable experts. I asked her questions about the layout of her basement and then explained the two options she had for digging down - underpinning and bench pinning and let her know a few things that could increase or decrease it the cost. I then gave her the contact info for a contractor that we know well that is trustworthy. Her response, was “wow that was really helpful, can I have your business card?”
Use this strategy every opportunity you can, especially with potential clients, but even just in day to day conversations with people. Be knowledgeable and provide value every chance you get.
Ok just to recap where we are. The first strategy for handling questions you don’t know the answer to, is to brainstorm a list of those questions or topics. The second strategy is to get educated about those topics and to prioritize them by tackling the ones that can get you in trouble first.
So moving along to the 3rd strategy and that is to learn how to control the conversation with re-directing and sidestepping. What does that mean exactly? It means taking charge and steering the conversation whenever you can, to topics that you know well, topics that will demonstrate your knowledge. You want to be in a position where you know more than your client. If they know more than you, that’s dangerous territory.
Which is why one of the first questions you need to ask potential clients, is what they do for a living. That is liquid gold information because you’ll know where the landmines are. Know that you’re walking into a landmine field when you work with contractors, investors, lawyers and sometimes marketing execs. It’s pretty hard to know more than they do, so you want to avoid getting into a trap. Now as an aside, you can really impress these folks when you do have deep knowledge about their field of expertise, but unless you do, steer clear.
So as an example, if you’re working with a lawyer, wow them with your knowledge about home construction or marketing. If they start asking you legal related questions, you can stroke their ego and say something like “hey I don’t need to be teaching you that stuff, you’re already a resident expert” and then re-direct the conversation back to something they don’t know so much about. Also don’t make assumptions about what people do and don’t know, just based on what they do for a living. Ask a lot of probing questions about their experience. I worked with a teacher once who had renovated so many homes, she knew more than most contractors.
Basically the point here is to control the conversation to topics you’re comfortable with. If they start trending towards unchartered territory, recognize it quickly and re-direct the conversation back to your domain.
Now sometimes you will get trapped and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is where strategy 4 comes into play. In these situations you have 3 choices, one you can bullshit your way through it, 2 you can say ‘that’s a good question, let me find out for you.” or 3 you can do what I call the in-between. Starting with option one which is to bullshit your way through it. First of all, I obviously ONLY recommend this if there is absolutely no harm done to the client. Secondly there is an art to it and For it to be effective you also do need to know just enough about the topic to be believable. Don’t try to bullshit on a topic you truly know nothing about because that can backfire quickly. One example I can give you was a listing presentation with a client who was a social media expert. He asked what percentage of our website traffic was paid and what was organic - I have no idea. Maybe I should know, but I just threw out it was a 70/30 split and changed the subject. Again no harm no foul.
The second option is to admit defeat and say you don’t know, but that you’ll find out. Using this option is ok, as long as you only do it a max of one time with any one client. More often than that and they will absolutely start to doubt your credibility.
In these situations if at all possible, I prefer to do the in between. For example once someone asked me a question related to the Residential Tenancies Act, which I know pretty well, but I just wasn’t totally confident on my answer, so I said what I thought it was but then said ‘however the government has just made some changes to the act, so let me confirm that this wasn’t part of the changes that were made.” I still established credibility and my knowledge, but had an escape route in case I was wrong.
Use every opportunity you can early on to demonstrate credibility, it can help prevent people from asking questions to test you. Yes that happens. Most aren’t necessarily doing it on purpose, but people naturally want to feel comfortable knowing they’re in good hands and the more knowledgeable you seem, the more they’ll trust you and the more relaxed they’ll be through the process of buying and selling. They’ll view you as the expert, they’ll rely on you and they’ll just defer to you.
So strategy 1 is to brainstorm all of the topics that you don’t know as well as you could. strategy 2 is to prioritize that list with stuff that could get you in trouble first, strategy 3 is to learn how to control the conversation, strategy 4 is to learn how to stick handle answering questions
and the last strategy is to consider taking improv lessons. Why Improv? It teaches your mind to stay on its toes and come up with responses with little time to think about it. You’ll instantly be able to come up with a solution to any problem or question a client might have. It also forces you to listen before you react. Really listening to clients and hearing what they are saying is one of the keys to a successful real estate career. And when you get really good at improv, you can control the narrative. You can use this skill to control the direction of your deals. So I highly recommend you get out there and find some improv classes! Many successful realtors have taken Improv classes and highly recommend it.
So that brings us to the end of this episode. Hopefully these 5 strategies will help reduce your fear of being asked a question you don’t know how answer. The bottom line is the more you know, the more confident you’ll be and the more business you’ll get and remember to always use every opportunity you can to demonstrate your knowledge. Don’t forget to checkout the freebie for this podcast which is a worksheet for you to complete. You can find it on my website at jenpercival.com/4
Next week’s episode is going to tackle a very common problem for women in real estate and it’s all about work-life balance. As a realtor, we are pretty much on call 24/7 and the more successful you become, the worse it gets. If left unchecked, it can take a serious toll on your emotional and physical well being and it can really affect your family life. So I’m going to have a very special guest on the show, who is probably one of the most brilliant women I know and she is going to share some great tips for us to learn how to manage our time and protect our emotional well being.
Ok to wrap this all up, I’ve got a question for you. Are you subscribed to my podcast? I want to encourage you to do that right away, like this minute. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my bonus episodes or mini trainings, subscribe now so you won’t miss out. Ok ladies thanks so much for being with me here today and I can’t wait to see you again next week. Remember the more you learn, the more you’ll earn.
Until next time!