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Selling with Emotion

Apr 25, 2011

Posted by

Tom Hopkins

My life's work has been to change the image of the stereotypical salesperson into that of sales "professional." Selling real estate is an honorable profession in which you get to help people make Read more

A basic rule of selling is that people will buy what they want, whether or not they need it. Some insist on a property in a certain zip code when all they need is a four-bedroom home in the general vicinity.  Others want a home in a specific school district -- even if there is open enrollment and other homes in the area are on the market for less.  Buyers require kid glove treatment.


It's a fact: some buyers will tell you they only want a three bedroom condo and won’t even consider looking at anything else.  Others will tell you the property they want must be designed to be energy efficient.  Still others might want a large piece of land with their home even if they don’t quite know what they plan to do with it. If you are not able to find a home that -- at absolute minimum -- meets their needs and at maximum matches most of their wants, you’re going to have a tough time closing a sale.

One of the most common mistakes real estate agents make is assuming that because you can convince potential clients that a property you have found to show them is a great buy and generally in the area they want, they will make the purchase.  Wrong!  A property can be priced below market or offered by motivated sellers but if it is going to be the client’s primary residence, the final decision won’t be made based on, say, how much the mortgage will be.

Emotion Wins

I don't claim to be a psychologist, but in my selling experience, I have found that there are two basic appeals when buying anything, but especially when buying homes.  Most people tend to make decisions based on both logic and emotion, and when there is conflict between the two, emotion will always win.  Read that sentence again and burn that point into your brain.  Emotion will always win.

People do not primarily buy in a logical manner.  They may start the process thinking they’re doing it because of logical reasons or in a logical manner.  But, when it comes down to making the final decision, they first buy the property emotionally.  Then, they justify or rationalize their buying decisions logically.  It happens this way every time.  The challenge too many average real estate agents have is that they are only trying to sell properties with logic.  That's why they aren't earning fees at the level they want or breaking any sales records. 


Some agents don’t even realize they’re selling with logic.  If you’re not certain if you are or not, pay attention to what you say.  Those selling with logic will say things like, “This property is 2,400 square feet, has three bedrooms, two baths and a three-car garage. That’s just what you told me you need.”  Those are logical facts.  They could be the facts for any number of homes in the United States.  While those facts meet needs on a logical level, top agents develop their abilities to translate those met needs into fulfilled emotions.

When your focus is on helping the potential new home owner feel the emotional benefits of owning a property, you’re on the right track.  The prospect must get involved with a property emotionally.  They must be able to mentally envision themselves living there. They have to feel the comfortable feeling of the home as they walk in after a long day at work or the welcoming assurance it provides when coming home from a week-long vacation.  They need to picture the family gathered at the table, enjoying a barbecue on the patio or deck with friends and warm to the hominess they will create there during the holidays or other special events.  Then, if you can provide good, logical reasons for them to own the property, they'll use them to rationalize or defend the purchase.

Face it.  Every prospective client is looking for some kind of shelter.  That's logical.  The location and type of shelter they choose will be based on their emotions.

It’s logical that they live within a certain range of where they work or where other members of their family live … in most cases, but not all.  There will be cases where families will want to live in a certain city, neighborhood or community for other reasons and they’ll put up with driving many miles to work.  In either case, remember that emotions are stronger than logic.  You need to learn what the emotions are behind what they tell you if you’re going to help them get happily moved.  You do that by asking questions that get them talking.

Questions, Questions, Questions

I encourage you to start asking questions the way you were taught to use them in school when writing reports.  In order to get the full picture of the emotions motivating your buyers to invest their time and effort in finding a property now ... and with any particular specifications they give you, ask them questions that begin with Who, What When, Where, Why and How.  This may seem simplistic, but it gets them talking and provides you with the opportunity to learn what is underlying what they’re telling you.

They may be looking for a home like the one they grew up in.  If that’s the case, ask them to describe the home to you in detail.  Listen for logical things like the number of bedrooms, having a certain directional exposure, the size of the yard and whether or not it had a basement.  These are all important logical details.

More importantly, listen for the emotional benefits of the home they once loved.  Did they spend a lot of time on the front porch talking with neighbors?  Was it the place all the friends hung out because it had a fun back yard?  Did they learn to ride a bike in the street in front of the house?  Was there a park close by?

Information like that translates to a strong community appeal, yard large enough for badminton or other family games to be played, or a cul-de-sac or quiet street with a safe playground.  The logical aspects will be obvious.  Your job is to help them envision the emotional appeal of the property you find that best suits their mental picture of what their ideal home will feel like.

Here are a few sample questions.  Use the ones that feel comfortable to you.  Develop others that fit your own personal style better.

a.)  “Who suggested this particular part of the city to you?”  If it’s a trusted friend or relative, tread lightly if the area is out of their price range, or doesn’t offer the type of home they’re seeking.  You’ll want to ask why they thought the friend made the recommendation.

b.)  “What is your fondest memory from the home you grew up in?”  Maybe it was the view from the tree in the back yard. If that image is important to them, you’ll want to seek a home in a more established neighborhood with grown trees.

c.)  “When you were young, you probably dreamed about owning your own place one day.  What did that home look like?”  They’re bound to mention a feature or two that can help you make a critical decision about the properties to show them.

d.)  “Where do you see yourselves spending most of your time in your new home?”  If “the kitchen” is the answer, you can forget homes with galley kitchens.  Their choice won’t be about the style, it’ll about the enjoyment they see themselves having there.

e.)  “I’m curious, why you have mentioned wanting a cul-de-sac lot?”  What they really want is “quiet” and “not much traffic.”  They may believe they can only get that in a cul-de-sac.  Your goal, if you can’t find any cul-de-sac lots in the area specified, then becomes one of helping them see that they can get what they want on a quiet street.  A street near the end of a neighborhood might be just as quiet and have a property for sale that meets more of their other needs.

f.)  “How do you plan to travel to and from work every day?”  As much as they may dislike commuting to and from work, the desire to have a great haven at the end of the long road home could easily close the transaction.

By understanding that people make decisions based more on emotions than logic, the professional salesperson can better prepare an effective presentation ... one based on the emotional appeal of the property.

The key is to learn to build desire by painting an emotional picture into the prospect's mind.  If they can mentally see themselves enjoying the home, if they can see the children playing in the yard, if they can picture how great their furniture will look in this home, emotionally, they already own it.  It then become a matter of listing the logical reasons to go ahead in order to close the transaction the rest of the way.