People First, Money Second: Jenna Hoover’s Most Profitable Strategy For Talking With Sellers

(Before I begin, I recently did a Q&A webinar on talking to sellers. You can watch the replay by clicking here. Follow us on Facebook to be notified of future calls!)

As a brand new investor, the amount of insecurities and obstacles seem to be never ending. I remember thinking so many times, “If I ever get out of this situation (whatever it was at that moment), I want to help other people not feel as scared or helpless as I just did.”

That’s my mission.

My goal is to take the mistakes that I’ve made and the lessons that I’ve learned to help change the lives of other people for the better. If I can help just one person get one step closer to their goals, or prevent someone from making the same mistakes that I’ve made, then that’s a win!

First, let me ask you a question…

What do you think makes some investors stand out from the pack? Why do you think some sellers choose to sell their home to certain people, sometimes regardless of the offer price? Do you think this is a coincidence? Of course not.

I’m going to share with you some of the fundamentals of communicating with sellers as well as the secret tips to making yourself stand out in a world full of real estate investors.

Effective communication comes with practice and is most powerful when combined with attentive listening and having the ability to read your surroundings.

For example, if a seller is talking about their children and I see that they have pictures of themselves and their children throughout the house, fishing or vacationing, then I know that is valuable information that I need to make note of, either mentally or on paper. I am going to use that information to make myself memorable in their eyes.

I can remember exactly how nervous I felt when I saw my phone ring for the first time. I stood there for a minute, like a deer caught in the headlights, debating if I wanted to answer it or not. Some of the thoughts running through my mind were…

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if I say the wrong thing?”

“What if I screw it up?”

“What if they can tell I’m new at this?”

What I quickly came to realize was that these sellers had no idea what a “perfect call” should even sound like. They were new at this too and they had no idea what I “should” be saying.

See, the sellers are the ones in need and, therefore, I am the one who is in control; I have what they want, which is the ability to purchase their property.

One thing I always told myself was, “They can’t take my Birthday.”

… and what this meant was that no matter how bad the call went, I would always have my birthday and I could always try again with another seller. It sounds silly, but it took a little pressure off and made me smile. Kind of like the “imagine them all in their underwear” tactic for public speakers.

Let’s start with our initial phone call to the seller.

This is your opportunity to make a good and lasting first impression, and is the standard by which they will remember you. Whether you’re picking up the phone and calling a seller that you found online or if a seller is calling you in response to your marketing, you will still use the same type of approach.

Effective communication comes with practice and is most powerful when combined with attentive listening and having the ability to read your surroundings.

If you are the one making a cold call, then the first thing you should do is to quickly say your name when they answer, and gain permission to have a few minutes of their time before continuing.

Remember, you don’t know if you’ve caught them in the middle of dinner, giving their baby a bath, or any number of things that they could be doing at that particular moment in time. Whatever it is, be polite and ask if you can have a few minutes of their time.

Tip: Pay close attention if they don’t have time to talk. They may say something like “Oh I’m sorry, I was just heading out the door to my son’s soccer game. Can we talk in about 90 minutes?” Your answer is, “Absolutely. I’ll call you in 90 minutes.” But guess what the first thing you will ask when you get back on the phone with them will be? You got it; “How did the game go; did you son’s team win?” Always try to refer back to information from that first call to build rapport with the seller. This shows that you are paying attention to what they are saying, even if it was a quick 30-second conversation. You have already shown that you are a careful listener and have respect for their time and what is important in their life. This goes a long way when a seller is trying to decide whether or not they should trust you and want work with you.

Starting The Call

People are curious and they want to know who we are, what we do, and how we do it. This is what “warms people up.” This is also what allows us to directly communicate our message, while saying it in a way that best benefits us. This builds the rapport, trust, and credibility that people are looking for.

People buy from and sell to “people,” not robotic salespeople who lack compassion.

With that being said, I don’t simply pick up the phone and say “So tell me about your house.” I tell them who I am, what I do, and how I do it.

Example opening:
 
Ring, ring, ring… they are calling us!

“Hello, this is Jenna.”

“Hi, my name is John. I saw your sign that said something about you buying houses. I have a house that I’m thinking about selling and I wanted to find out more info.”

“Hi John; thank you so much for contacting me; I will definitely be able to help you with selling your property.”

Tip: Be mindful of using the term “help you.” I’ve had sellers in the past ask me why I assumed they “needed help.” As odd as it seems, some people have taken offense when I have “offered help.” This will also be based on your geographic location. Someone in the south may love hearing that you are going to help him or her, while someone on the east coast may want to hang up on you. Test and track the responses to this phrase to more carefully tailor your message.

Tip: Notice how I instantly start referring to the property as “property” and not a house. I am emotionally detaching them as much as possible right from the beginning. It is no longer a home or house; it is a property that they are looking to sell.

First, let’s start by telling them who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

“My name is Jenna Hoover and I am a local residential redeveloper; what that means is I work with families that need to sell their property for whatever reason. Whether they are relocating for work, unable to afford the monthly mortgage payments, inherited it from a loved one, financially unable to keep up with the maintenance, and so on. Once I purchase the property, if it needs any maintenance or updating, I have a great team of contractors who renovate it and bring it back to its former glory. Then I work with new families to get them into the home of their dreams, or keep the property as a rental.

My goal in working with you is to help you sell your property as fast as possible and for as much money as possible …if that is what you’d like to do. Does this sound good?”

At this point, give them an opportunity to take in what you’ve just said and answer your question.

If they respond positively and want to hear more, then you can continue on with this…

“Perfect! I can help you in one of three different ways:

The first way is the easiest; I simply purchase the property, which is what we are in the process of discussing right now.

The second way is similar. Sometimes I may have a family who needs to sell a property but I may not have the manpower to purchase another renovation project at the moment. However, I work with other investors in the area who I can help put them in contact with, to possibly purchase the property.”

Tip: This is also known as a wholesale deal.

“The third way is a little bit different… There are times when I meet a family who needs to sell their property for a higher price than what I would be able to offer them. I work with the best of the best real estate agents in the area and I can help point you in the right direction, if that’s the path we choose. These are the same agents that I personally use to list my properties when I am ready to sell them so I know you’ll be in good hands.”

Common Seller Objections

Now that we’ve briefly explored the different ways that we can help them, let’s take a minute to think like a seller. What fears, or reservations, would they have before calling an “investor?”

“They’re going to pressure me into selling my house or take advantage of me.”

But I just told them that if I can’t buy it, then I would help them get it listed with an agent.

“They are going to make me feel horrible about the fact that I am losing my house, or I will be helpless because of the reasons why I have to sell my house.”

In my intro to the conversation, I gave an overview of the reasons why people sell their house with one reason being the inability to afford the monthly mortgage payments. By talking about these reasons without directly talking about it, we are making them feel like it is something we deal with on a regular basis and they aren’t alone. It is very important to make people feel comfortable with you on this topic because it is very touchy and very personal. I will actually talk a little more about “foreclosure insecurities” coming up.

“There is so much work that needs done and I can’t afford to do it all.”

We talked about already having a team in place that renovates because it is our specialty. Even if it is not your “specialty” you will undoubtedly have a plan for managing properties that need work, whether that’s wholesaling the contract to another investor who specializes in rehabbing properties or having a small team at the ready when you find properties that need work. Whatever your plan of attack is for a property like that, make sure to convey it to the seller right from the start to ease their mind.

“They are only looking at the dollar signs and not me as a person.”

“They won’t care about my house the way I did.”

“They are a scam; one of those “we want something for nothing kind of people.””

These last few objections can be alleviated once the seller hears how passionate we are about investing in real estate and the reasons why we are in the business. They will hear us talk about helping families, both buyers and sellers, and working together to make dreams come true. This is the type of effective communication that will set you apart from other investors.

People buy from and sell to “people,” not robotic salespeople who lack compassion.

Some people think that an intro or “elevator pitch” isn’t always necessary and that we, as investors, should just get straight to the point.

I think that by having an intro, we are able to calm any nerves or insecurities that our sellers may have, without directly confronting the issue. We are able to block their objections from the gate without them even realizing it. What they do start to realize is that they feel more at ease as they listen to us talk.

Next, I typically set the standard that I will need a few minutes of their time and will be asking a few questions about their property, if that’s ok. Again, always be mindful of their time and the fact that they may have other things happening around them when you call.

Tip: Do your best to determine if they seem like a “get to the point” type of person or someone who is more detail oriented. If someone is a fast-talking individual who seems pressed for time, I am not going to spend 20 minutes on the call and they will appreciate that. If someone seems more open and willing to share more details, be considerate but, also, do your best to keep them on track so your call doesn’t go on for too long. Try to stay within the time frame that you set at the beginning.

The Seller Script

If you already have the property address, this is the perfect opportunity to refer to your Realeflow “Seller Script” for guidance on the conversation and the information that you need to obtain at this point. You can get a copy of Realeflow’s Seller Script when you sign up for our Q&A webinar replay on talking to sellers. You can watch the replay by clicking here. (Follow us on Facebook to be notified of future training webinars.), where I answer any questions you might have about talking to sellers.

This seller script has everything you need to ask, organized in the most effective order for you to be able to make an informed decision at this point in the process. If you follow this script, the conversation will flow beautifully. It even prompts you to ask certain questions based on the answers to previous questions.

If the seller hasn’t shared the address, this is the time to ask.

“So tell me, John, what was the address of your property?”

As soon as he gives it to me, I type the property address into Realeflow. Realeflow pulls the tax data on the property, pre-populates the owners on title, discloses if the property is owner occupied, and if it is not owner occupied, will provide the owner’s mailing address. I will also be able to see when the current owners purchased the property, for how much, and any refinance and/or foreclosure information.

Realeflow also references the tax site data to include demographics on the property like bedroom and bathroom count, square footage, style of the house, material, HVAC info, lot size, and even incorporates a Google map image as long as Google has previously photographed this area.

This is important because a lot of the work and property information is pre-populated for us, allowing us to better spend our time building rapport, asking questions about information that can’t be found online, and really listening to our sellers.

We will still go through the typical questions on the script to verify that our information is correct, and to show that we have done our homework and are a serious buyer.

Essentially, with time permitting, I want to ask as many questions as possible that would allow me to be able to make an educated decision about whether or not I want to take time to go see the property in person and I want to be able to create as complete a repair estimate as possible before even seeing the house.

For example, if I can’t get a clear view of the roof from the Google map image, I’m going to ask about it. To the best of my ability, I want to virtually walk through that property without having physically gone to it yet. This saves us a lot of time because we can’t go look at every single property; this helps us weed out the ones that we won’t be able to work on right from the beginning. This is important so that we aren’t wasting precious time on properties that won’t be good deals.

“Are there any special features on the property?” Allow them to “sell” you on their property here. What better person to talk to than the one who was already sold on the property once before? This will lead into asking about any renovations that they have made on the property.
 
Here is a spicy question: “Are there any repairs that are needed?”

A lot of people will say, “Nope, it’s all good,” however, we may know that their version of “good” may not be our version of “good.”

If they don’t think it needs any repairs, this is where Realeflow prompts us to be ninjas. You will immediately follow up by asking them, “when was the last time the kitchen and bathroom(s) were updated.” If it has been a while, then there’s a good chance that they aren’t “good.”

This is a good time to also ask them for more info, based on the idea that “if they were to continue living there, what other fixes would they want to make to be comfortable?” This type of question typically gets people to open up more and think about their house differently. You may get responses like, “Well I may want to take out the carpet in the bathroom if I were to live here for another five years” or “I might want to replace the roof since that tar patch may not hold up another year” and so on.

Tip: Do not make them feel that their issues are too extreme, but don’t take them too lightly either. You want to delicately remind them of these repairs without making them feel bad that their property has gotten to this point. You are going to use this information when making your decision about whether or not to go see the house, and also when determining your offer, so these details are extremely important for you to have.

Continue by asking if the property is listed or if they have received any offers. This will give you an idea of where you fall in the process and how motivated they are to sell. If the property is currently listed, or has been listed previously, then you know that they have tried other avenues before talking with you. This may indicate a higher motivation level to sell, as opposed to someone who is talking with you first. This person may be researching and weighing out all of their options before they make a decision about which path to take and may have more time to make their decision.

Next is the financial section… this includes the dreaded “How much do you owe?” and “How far are you behind on your mortgage?” sections.

A lot of investors like to avoid this conversation because it makes them feel uncomfortable but, when approached correctly, this important information can be of great benefit to you.

We can likely find out their original mortgage amount and purchase date from their tax records, but lets get them to give us more details.

You can get straight to the point and ask, “How much do you owe?” or “Are you behind on your mortgage?” but test these phrases and track the responses. Find out if people are closed off from answering these questions and adjust if necessary.

Personally, I like to ask them the sales price first because I am very successful at getting their mortgage info right after.

“Have you come up with a number that you’re looking to sell your property for?”

This question is kind of blunt and catches them slightly off guard.

You will get a variety of answers along the lines of, “I don’t know. You’re the expert; you tell me what it’s worth.”

But you need to know what number they are thinking because it will determine whether or not you consider purchasing the property or referring it to an agent.
 
Once you get a general number from them (do not be the first one to throw out a price), pause and count to three.

This pause is the most uncomfortable few seconds because their brain is thinking, “Did I say too much?” “Did I say too little?” “Why isn’t she talking?” and so on.

Break the silence by saying “Hmm, now how did you establish that number, is that what an agent told you it was worth or is that just what you owe on it?”

They are so happy for the silence to be broken that they will typically just blurt out something to keep the conversation moving and may say, “Oh no, I don’t owe anything on it” or “No, I only owe $17,000.”

Got it, we managed to establish the price they want to sell for, learned that they have a mortgage, and for how much!

I mentioned earlier that we would touch on “foreclosure insecurities” again. I would highly recommend Realeflow’s “Foreclosure Investing System” course as a training to educate you on the ins and outs of the foreclosure process. Even as a seasoned investor for over four years, I learned countless bits of information that enabled me to better communicate with sellers regarding foreclosure and their options, have a better understanding of the foreclosure process, and better prepare myself to guide sellers to trust me to genuinely help them solve their problems.

You can ask your seller if they know if they are current on their mortgage payments. It is an indirect way of asking, without making them feel like you are attacking them.

Your goal is to make them feel comfortable talking with you, while doing your best to build their confidence in you. You want them to know that you will do everything you can to help them in their situation.

When it comes to a foreclosure situation, if they are no longer paying their mortgage, they have a few options.

First, they can pay the past due amount to get current on their mortgage, which would be ideal for them. However, in reality, if they do not have the funds to pay their monthly mortgage, it’s not likely that they have the money to pay their monthly mortgage plus the past due amounts to bring their loan current.

So now they are really only looking at two options.

If the seller does nothing, the bank will foreclose on the house, which means the homeowner can no longer live there, they lose any equity that they had in the house, and they have a foreclosure on their credit report.

The other option is they sell their house to us (whether outright or after we have negotiated a short sale) for an amount that is mutually agreed upon.

Unfortunately, this scenario also means they can no longer live in their house, but they avoid having a foreclosure on their credit, which is a very good thing.

Both scenarios here force them to make a decision that requires them to leave because either the bank takes the house back and kicks them out, or they sell it to us and are able to leave on their terms.

You never want to be that harsh at explaining it to them but when we, as investors, understand this, it helps us to understand and convey to the seller that we are only there to help.

Your goal is to make them feel comfortable talking with you, while doing your best to build their confidence in you. You want them to know that you will do everything you can to help them in their situation.

Compassion is a must when you are dealing with families who are in a tough financial situation.

Above all else, the most important thing you can do during this conversation is to be empathetic to the seller and what they’re going through. You can be sure that it took a lot for them to pick up the phone and call you, or to answer the phone when you cold-called them. Never underestimate the courage that it took for them to tell you their story and to share the not-so-perfect details of their life with you. If they are in the position where they are talking to you for help, then the most important thing you can do is to listen and empathize with them. People do business with other people that they know, like, and trust.

In my experience the two most common reactions I receive (before acceptance and appreciation) are either complete denial regarding their situation or a combination of anger and embarrassment.

Knowing that these are likely the emotions that they are feeling, and may react with, will help you handle your conversations with all types of sellers.

Be prepared to take more of an educational approach with the “denial” sellers to delicately explain the severity of their situation.

The sellers who are angry and/or embarrassed need to know that we understand what they’re going through and where they’re coming from. If we sent them a direct mail letter, they may call us and rudely blurt out “how did you get my information?”

Think about that for a minute. What would you answer them with?

“Well, I got a list of people’s names who couldn’t pay their mortgage and, luckily, you made the cut.”

NO!!!! Not the response we want to help us build rapport. That is why preparing for their questions is so important.

Recently, I am hosted a webinar to practice going through each section of the “Seller Script” in greater detail, while giving scenarios of what to say if certain questions or comments develop from the sellers. I will prepare you for that “how did you get my information?” question and provide you with several alternatives for your response. We will also spend more time on the delicate foreclosure conversations with sellers.

You can watch the replay by clicking here.

Ending The Call

Summing up your call with a seller, once you have established the financial numbers needed to determine if you can move forward with the deal, you can ask any remaining unanswered questions that are still outstanding on the Seller Script. They have most likely shared their reason for wanting to sell and when they are looking to sell by.

The final part of the call will be deciding if you want to go to the property or not. Remember your initial elevator pitch, where you said that your goal was to help them get their house sold. If you feel that this is not a good investment opportunity, then this is where you can contact your local real estate agent to potentially help them list their property.

Our company’s motto has always been “people first, money second.” This is so important to remember when talking with sellers. It’s important to remember that people are “people” and not just sellers. This is their home and not just another “deal.”

Never underestimate the courage that it took for them to tell you their story and to share the not-so-perfect details of their life with you.

If you are able to help families, while doing what you love to do, then you are truly creating a win-win.

I always say that, “We are building relationships while we are building houses.”

That is always the goal.

In other upcoming webinars I also plan to help you with the “face to face” seller interactions when actually walking through a seller’s property. I’ll talk about things like what to say, how to handle certain objections, how to prepare, and more.

I look forward to sharing more.

Remember, I’ll be hosting a webinar Wednesday, August 30th where I will practice going through each section of the “Seller Script” in greater detail, while giving suggestions for what to say in different scenarios, and how to address certain questions or comments that develop from the sellers. You’ll be prepared for that “how did you get my information?” question with several alternatives to respond with. We will also spend more time on the delicate foreclosure conversations with sellers.

You can watch the replay by clicking here. (Follow us on Facebook to be notified of future webinars.)

Make sure you follow Realeflow on Medium or on Facebook to learn more about upcoming webinars and other great resources.

To learn more about Jenna Hoover and how she achieved her freedom, click here.