In any sales position, an introductory phone call is super-important. It’s the first impression you make and a chance to establish rapport. As a real estate agent, this is particularly crucial because buying a home is a purchase that the customer takes very seriously, and thus wants a trusted adviser in the process. If you’re already a Premier Agent, you’re already taking steps toward making sure your business maintains growth, but one of the most overlooked parts of building your business is nailing that first call.

That’s why we reached out to two Premier Agents who truly excel at this pivotal moment. Ben Willig, an agent with over a decade of real estate experience, and Thomas Lampshire, an accomplished agent on both the buyer and seller side.

Both agents shared some great techniques for leaving a great impression on the first call, ensuring success and, more importantly, doing everything in your power to generate that second call or first meeting. Here are their tips.

For starters, pick up the phone

This might sound obvious, and that’s why we find it so surprising how many new (and experienced) agents have an extremely low track record of answering calls. “Agents either get lazy or are scared and try to communicate through text or email,” says Lampshire. “This doesn’t work well.” Even if you’re rushing between meetings and showings, and fielding a phone call is the last thing you want to do, it is hugely important to take the time to answer the call. This is the time that the consumer wants to talk to you about the apartment in question, so it’s the perfect time to establish a rhythm and instill your value. If you don’t answer, you’re missing the consumer at their most willing moment.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Lampshire

Make sure you talk to them, not at them

A subtle, but effective approach you can take to early phone calls is to handle that call similar to how you’d talk to a close friend. Many agents feel the need to jump right in with their expertise (which is important), but starting the conversation with some greetings and casual questions will warm up the conversation and yield better results. “Once you have established the conversation,” says Lampshire, “you can feather in your relationship with Zillow/StreetEasy.”

This technique achieves two things: first it eases any subconscious reticence from this client who is, effectively, a stranger to you. Second, it’s a great way to collect information about the new client’s goals and expectations without outright asking them clerical (and sometimes scary) questions. Something like “so you must be excited that you’re considering taking the step toward your first home!” could be a much better approach than, “Is this the first time you’re looking at getting a mortgage?”

Bring the right energy level with you

“A lot of people don’t have the right attitude entering the call,” says Willig. “Either something bad happened that day, or they just have their head down.” He goes on to say that you can’t expect to get positive feedback from a prospective client if you aren’t starting the conversation from a positive place, yourself. Willig sums it up: “State management is always the first thing I mention to new agents.” It goes back to that first point about talking to your client. Establishing a meaningful, emotional impression (keeping a clear head and an even state of mind) is so important and if that emotion is grumpiness, then you’re most definitely starting this crucial conversation off on the wrong foot.

Be respectful of the person’s time

Willig’s second point is to make sure that you are clarifying with the potential client that it’s a good time to talk — especially if you are returning the customer’s call. This new client might be in the middle of something. By showing courtesy and starting off the conversation with a quick reassurance that they’re currently available will go a long way toward establishing mutual respect and a human connection.

Stay in “question mode”

Once you’ve answered the phone in the right headspace, and approached it like a human conversation, there are a few strategies you can employ to make sure the call is heading the way you want. Staying in “question mode” as Willig calls it is a great way to glean information  that’s both literal and subconscious. “The deeper you can go in a conversation, the more you direct the conversation, and the easier it is to establish yourself as a leader in the process, rather than a commodity,” says Willig.

Photo courtesy of Ben Willig

Prove your value as an agent

And the real meat of this first call is proving to your client — not telling them — that you bring value as a buyer’s agent. “In order to support that you’re an educational resource and a leader in this home-buying process,” says Willig, “you have to find those gaps in the client’s knowledge of the process.” Even experienced buyers have some gaps when it comes to knowing certain parts of the process. Providing a unique point of value (or multiple) that you do know a lot about the process will instill confidence in this client to continue to the next step with you as their agent. “Once you prove a point of knowledge that a client doesn’t know, you can almost hear them perk up over the phone.”

Try proving your knowledge with something specific

When pressed on specific knowledge points an agent can get into on the first call, Willig does think that establishing and explaining the difference between condos, co-ops, and condops is a good technique to keep in your back pocket. Buying one of these property types requires specific contractual knowledge, understanding of financing costs, and a general finesse in the process. So gauging a new client’s knowledge of the differences and filling in the gaps will go a long way. This will also help you see the depth of their general NYC real estate know-how and help you understand if they are “starting from 0”.

But adapt your strategy to each situation

Finally, it’s important to remember that, no matter how many deals you’ve closed and negotiated with clients, nothing ever promises a one-size-fits-all approach. “Mirroring is such a powerful thing, in terms of people’s speed, tempo, and tone,” says Willig. If clear, direct, assertive information worked the last time you fielded a call, the next time you might have to spend 15 minutes talking to the client about their job. If questions and scripts are the “science” of the first phone call, adapting to a new style, pace, and tone is the “art” of the call.

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