Tip of the Month - Questions by Stewart Mednick

by 20 May 2010

The ability to gain knowledge is everything. Knowledge is power. Power is dominance. Dominance is success. 

To some, this may sound egotistical. Or the idea of power and dominance is militaristic and there is no room for this thought-train in mortgage or real-estate. In my opinion, if you do not play to win, then do not play!
 
Knowledge is the foundation of success in any pursuit in life; my opinion. The more you know, the better armed you will be to succeed. After knowledge is execution of ideas learned, then the perfecting of the execution and finally the replication of the process for all activities you engage in life. I want to start with the ability to gain knowledge through questions.
 
In mortgage specifically, we ask questions to find out what are the needs of the customer and to establish a product that will fit those needs the best. In any profession, the general concept is true but services and products to be offered will change. The power of a well stated question is as important as a top attorney at a trial. The quality of the words used in a question will shape the answer you receive. And depending on the information you need to be successful, you need to shape your questions very carefully.
 
In my opinion, there are three types of questions: a fact question, a feeling question and a psychological question. Each question type has a single purpose; to focus the “need” and to establish the relevance of the need. 
 
In sales, there is always a need. If there is no need, there is no reason to buy goods and services. I need to eat, therefore I buy food. I need to drive to work, therefore I buy a car. The free market concept kicks in with the decision process of the customer. The process ends when the decision of where or from whom the purchase will transpire. Questions answered will drive the decision. So, how quality and specific are your questions to drive sales to your shop? 
 
Three question types and a general description of each:
 
  1. Fact Question – One short answer or single word answer; what is the issue, what is the customer’s need.
 
  1. Feeling Question – One short answer; no ‘right’ answer; how does the customer feel about the scenario?
 
  1. Psychological (emotional link) Question – an extended answer; what is the significance of this solution? What are the implications of the contemplated action?
 
A fact question is as it sounds; fact… nonfiction. You ask the question, “What color house do you want?” and the answer is fact: yellow. You ask the question, “How much income did you have for 2009?” The answer is fact: nothing. These questions are extremely important. Ask lots of these questions to know the customer. 
 
Based on the answers of the fact-based questions, you can ask some “feeling” questions. These are basic emotional based, or esthetic type questions. Basic emotions are the initial reactions you see in public: happiness, anger, frustration, etc.
“Why do you want a yellow house?” the answer is esthetic: “Yellow is pretty.” “Are you satisfied with making nothing in 2009?” The answer is esthetic: “No, but I was on unemployment and got a part time job, it is cool.” These answers give you an opinion based on the ‘wiring’ in the head of the client. These questions focus on basic emotions, favorites, and desires.
 
The last type of question is psychological. The answers for these questions are formulated deep in the psyche of the mind. These answers have profound roots in the past of one’s life. These answers conjure images based on powerful memories and traumatic events.
“How do you feel owning a yellow house?” the answer is emotional: “I grew up in a yellow house and it reminds me of happier times before my dad passed away.” “I suppose it was difficult making nothing in 2009?” The answer is emotional: “No, I was laid off and the industry fell apart and I can not find another job and have been looking for eight months. I am going crazy if I can not find another job soon.” These questions will reflect the soul of your client and are very powerful.  If you listen to the facts, you can assess the needs of the customer and ask these questions to hone in on the core of the customer’s reason to be in front of you.
 
Two styles of questioning will determine the actual length of the answer and the depth of the facts:
 
1.      An Open Question – uses a general line of questioning to probe for information; requires an explanation.
a.      Encourages a customer to open up
b.      Effective in the beginning of a phone call or interview
 
2.      A Closed Question – asks for specific facts and detail, or can be answered with yes or no.
a.      Helps narrow the problem and find a catch point
b.      It may not encourage the customer to talk if followed with open questions
 
The style of question is self explanatory and matches with the type of questions described above.
 
“People will flood you with ideas if you let them.” To regain the posture of the trusted advisor, you need to gain trust and show genuine desire to know the customer. If you perform well with questions, you will easily do all this and more. How you ask the question and the listening ability to glean information from answers is equally important.
 
The simple man asks, “How do I learn?” The wise man asks, “What should I learn?” The successful man has no time to ask, he is learning by doing.
 
Questions have their time and place. Ask the right questions to unlock your future success. Know when to ask, and know when to act. But, act only when you have the knowledge to move forward with confidence.
 
Stewart Mednick is a seasoned mortgage banker and published author. His writing focuses on relationship development, personal empowerment, customer satisfaction, marketing and sales techniques. Stewart is available for marketing consulting, personal coaching and training sessions. If you have a comment or a question for Stewart, contact him at 651-895-5122 or smednick1@netzero.net

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