The Confident Rookie Series – SECRET TEN – What to say when you don’t know the answer?


posted by on Especially for Rookies

qA few weeks ago, my trainee came into my office all flustered. He’d been out with his buyers over the weekend and felt that he’d made a fool of himself by not being able to intelligently answer his buyers’ questions. It almost sounded as if he was ready to throw in the towel – at least until he knew more about what he was doing!

Calm down, I told him. First, trust that it will happen to you thru-out your career. Don’t panic. Don’t make stuff up, but don’t panic.

I asked him what the questions were that he couldn’t answer. And guess what? Most of the questions were really good ones – that is – chances are that even a more experienced agent wouldn’t have known the answers either! But the problem with being new is that you don’t know what you SHOULD know and so you figure you should know it all.

This is where not panicking comes in.

Take a deep breath and really think about the question. Is this something you should or could know?

For example, let’s say you’re showing lofts downtown and the buyer asks: “What are the pet restrictions in this building?” Well, unless you live in the building yourself or unless you make a habit of memorizing condo rules & regulations, you couldn’t possibly know the answer. Or how about if a buyer asks you where the property lines are on a rural property? If you aren’t the listing agent, this is probably not something you can accurately answer.

This doesn’t mean it’s not your job to get the answer – it is. But if you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, it’s okay!

So, how do you respond?

First, DO NOT use those tired old words “I don’t know the answer, but I can certainly find out for you!” in that prissy, almost defensive voice. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? That cheerful, oh-so-helpful voice that clearly tells your client that you don’t have a clue, but wish you did?

Instead, try this. Relax, and VERY casually say “Hmmmm, I don’t know. Lemme find out.” Write it down, and move on.

Or, how about this? “Wow – I’ve never gotten that question before. I’m looking forward to finding out the answer!” Write it down, and move on.

Or, in the above scenarios when you’re working with a buyer and he has questions about the property you’re looking at, take control and call the listing agent immediately.  That will make a great impression on the buyer.

Of course, sometimes you’ll be asked a question you should know the answer to and you don’t. This is happening to me more often lately as I venture deeper into the world of foreclosures & short sales. My stock answer has become “Y’know, I should know the answer to that, but I don’t. I’ll find out for you.” This somewhat self-deprecating approach seems to be working – at least – no one’s fired me yet for saying it!

Hope you enjoyed the Confident Rookie Series! Now… go get ’em!

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find a Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

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