To Question

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the January 1974 issue of the R.E. News Observer.

After we had spent the better part of two days studying the Art of Exploratory Questioning during a class in “The Art of Real Estate Counseling,” one of the students presented me with a 50 cent plaque he had discovered in a dime store that read: “I KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS — IT’S THE QUESTIONS I DON’T UNDERSTAND!”

He remarked that the plaque expressed the average attitude of the average real estate practitioner who thought he knew it all, but really didn’t understand his client. He did not know how to ask questions that would have given him all the information and understanding required to assure a successful transaction.

Most of us ask the most basic of all questions — a question that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” And thereby learn nothing, since this type of question is easily avoided and, in many cases, the answer is one of the forms of a lie. The average client is accustomed to this type of question being employed as a “closing question.” The idea is to condition the client to answering, “Yes,” “Yes,” “Yes — Oops! I’ve bought it!'”

And, of course, from there on in he is looking for a way out — a major reason for collapsed closings and escrows. Give the client the slightest opportunity — an “i” not dotted, or a “t” not crossed — and he is off and running — away!

It really is amazing how few people in any profession or industry really know how to ask a question. All of us seem to specialize in the “interrogative” or the “bureaucratic” questions as though they were from a form to be filled in.

No wonder as high as 40% of new licensees each year fall by the way. No wonder so many of us just make enough to “get by.” No wonder we find our chosen profession one in which there are always financial ups and downs, which we despairingly blame on market conditions, interest rates, supply and demand.

Properly phrased questions springing from the proper attitude assures a complete answer together with all the side information so valuable to the trained practitioner. It is the basis of the art of creating a “partnership” with the client in which he labors with the practitioner to solve the problem or meet the objective.

When will we learn that the winsome personality and the fast footwork are no longer sufficient qualifications for success in modern-day real estate? And they certainly are not professional!

Mr. Chatham was a member of the Board of Governors and Regional Director of the Society of Exchange Counselors. He taught “Counseling and Client Management” for The Reno Foundation, which became a vibrant and acclaimed seminar.

One Comment »

  1. I took Chuck Chatham’s Art of Real Estate Counseling and Advanced CounselingI in the mid ’80s when i started my real estate career. To this day I carry around my books (now in a 3 ring binder for safety) with Chatham’s doctrine of Sufficiency on top. I have shared his ideas with collegues and employees over the years and have found his teaching to be the best lesson I have ever learned in real estate and real estate lending. His teachings have been, in my opion, the ultimate win-win for both the counselor and the investor.
    Thank you!