Remember back in school when you were taking a big test? You’d be at your desk and very likely knew how you’d do before even starting. If you had studied hard, you were confident that you’d ace it. If you hadn’t, you hoped to get lucky, but knew doing poorly was more likely.
It’s the same with real estate sales. The confident, knowledgeable and prepared REALTOR® will usually land the clients and listings, then make the sales, while the unprepared agent can only hope to. Understanding contracts, mortgages and other paperwork aspects of the business can be achieved through book learning.
But the personal interactions that are at the heart of the residential real estate business can only be mastered through experience, and one of the best ways to improve is through role-playing. If clients acknowledge that you are an expert in real estate matters, and you can explain everything confidently, it’s likely they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt even if they may disagree on something. Role-playing helps to ensure you know your stuff and can express it convincingly.
“Role-playing is, in my opinion, the very best way to improve all your skills,” says Amanda Peterson, a REALTOR® with the Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage in Nashville, Tennessee. “Whether it’s addressing objections or learning when you have poor wording in a conversation, role play is the ultimate teacher.
“When I first started here I was fresh and timid. I began attending a scripting/role-play class instructed by Jonny Lee; one of the co-owners. Though he’s only a few years older than me, he’s been in the business for many years and credits his scripting success to hearing Gary Ashton chat with clients while riding in cars together.
“Jonny listened and copied, then put his own spin on Gary’s words. Naturally the class for someone just starting out was intimidating and intense, and sometimes I’d even feel a bit embarrassed when I wasn’t able to accurately answer an objection. Not because Jonny tried to embarrass me, but because the class was meant to give you the answers and for you to then demonstrate the lesson in role-play activities. That’s nerve-wracking the first few times around!”
Donna Deaton, an agent with RE/MAX Victory + Affiliates in Cincinnati, explains that once the first half of 2022 ended, along with historically low mortgage rates, bidding wars and easy home sales, reality returned. The second half of the year was much slower, and things haven’t changed much this year, putting an agent’s conversational skills at even more of a premium.
“We are getting back to basics, using role play to work on cold calling, for sale by owners, expirations, how to face your fears, and how to respond to objections, such as ‘I believe my home is worth way more than what you are telling me,’” she says. “We also address how to respond to pushback regarding the fees a brokerage charges to sell their home. The role play helps explain our value.”
Role-playing practice is something Judy Zeder, a REALTOR® with the Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker in Miami, Florida, notes that her agency does on a regular basis.
“We meet weekly for a minimum of 90 minutes and often another hour during the week,” she says. “Role play is important to all of us in order to increase our skill level, which makes us more valuable to our clients. We cover many topics, which may include price positioning, contract negotiations, challenges in the marketplace and a lot of other topics, depending on what is going on specifically at that time.
“For example, sometimes the market shifts quickly, and we all need to hear what clients are focused on and where we can add value or bring in our expertise. Role-playing those scenarios helps us give good strong explanations to our customers.”
While agents and brokers play different roles, Peterson feels that more experienced real estate professionals should normally play the agent role, as they’ve had more interactions with clients and have learned how to move things forward and alleviate concerns.
“Getting first-hand knowledge from long-time agents is priceless,” she asserts. “Role-playing and learning how to respond when someone says ‘I think I’ll just do a for sale by owner’ or ‘I’m only looking’ or ‘I’d rather just use the listing agent’ is so important. Overcoming objections with kindness, compassion and firm commitment helps both you as the agent and your client.
“Learning when to pause in your sentence rather than saying ‘um’ or ‘you know’ or inserting any unintentional filler phrase you use gives your client confidence in your ability. You know you can help them, but without clear and concise conversational skills, they can’t always get that.”
Zeder points out that with uncertainty about how the industry will evolve going forward, it’s vital that agents be on top of whatever new developments may arise, and be ready to share their expertise with skittish buyers and sellers.
“Agents must keep up their skill sets in an industry that is ever-changing,” she says. “Most of this job is about interactions with clients and learning and understanding their needs, which is improved through role play. Since everyone has different experiences, we all learn from each other.”
She says a simple role-play example goes something like this:
Client: “I really like the home and I understand the pricing, but I am still not sure about whether I should buy it or not.”
Agent: “Well, that’s a good question. Let’s go back to why you wanted to buy it in the first place. What attracted you to the home?”
Client: “It’s in the school district we want, has a big backyard and a summer kitchen, and is close to the kids’ grandparents.”
Agent: “So have any of those things changed? Is there something else that is concerning you? Most importantly, I want you to be happy in your new home, so let’s chat about what your concerns are so you can make the best decision for yourself and your family.”
“Truly the only way to hear yourself and correct yourself is to role play,” concludes Peterson. “Take a class, partner up, get and give constructive criticism. When you realize that no matter what feedback you get; whether it’s ‘great job’ or ‘that’s not quite right’ it opens you up to critical thinking and problem solving so you can become a superior agent with top-notch skills.”
Other tips for role-playing success include:
- Only role-play with agents and/or brokers. There’s no point in engaging with people who are not experienced in real estate and in addressing buyer/seller concerns.
- Limit the small talk. Everyone’s good at happy talk. Get right down to the serious matters that can make or break a client relationship and/or a successful transaction.
- Role-play while standing. Most of the time you stand in houses with clients, so do the same when practicing to improve interpersonal skills. Good body language is crucial.
- Reach a successful conclusion. That is, continue the role-playing session until you get the desired outcome. That’s what you want in real life, so work toward it.