Latest Articles

2012-03-12 17:25:59

Are Buyers Really Liars?

You’ve heard the saying, “Buyers are Liars.”  But, could it be that we agents just aren’t skilled enough to discover their big ‘why’? We play ’20 Questions’ when interviewing the client. We find out they want 3 bedrooms in a nice area. Then, the next Sunday, we call them and discover they bought a 4-bedroom home in ‘out in the sticks. What happened?

I’m going to show you how to uncover the secret ‘why’ of each buyer of your services, so you’ll never be snookered again—and you’ll increase your ratio of leads to sales dramatically.

Uncovering What’s Important to the ‘Buyer’ 

Up and Running in 30 Days has seven critical sales skills every salesperson must master to convert leads to sales. Of these seven critical sales skills, I think the sales skill I’m about to reveal is the most important. Why? Because using it ensures we can help a person make the right buying decision for him.

Why Do People ‘Buy’?

First, let’s clarify. When we’re talking about buyers, we’re talking about anyone who ‘buys’ your services—those buying a home, and those selling a home. Let’s concentrate for this article on those buying a home. Why do you think they buy a particular home? If you’re concentrating on the physical aspects of a home, you’re probably asking questions like

“How many bedrooms do you need?”
“How many baths do you want?”

And on, and on, and on.

Then, after you build a long list of desired physical attributes, you and the buyer try to find a home that fulfills those physical needs.  Wrong. Here’s the big principle:

People are motivated by emotion, not facts.

Think about marriage. Why does a particular couple get married? Because they are emotionally attracted to each other. The emotion drives the motivation to marry—not the facts. It doesn’t matter that a ‘list’ of qualities is fulfilled. When you meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, zing go the strings of your heart, and all those facts (must be 6 feet tall, have two million in the bank, etc., etc.—just go out the window!).

People buy homes to fulfill emotional needs, not physical ones.

Another way to put it is that people have motives--emotional reasons people take actions. So, in our questioning, we want to move past the physical needs and toward the emotional needs. Homes with three bathrooms are not very motivating; however, providing personal spacefor your growing family is.

Too Long a Physical List Defeats the Purpose

I sold lots of homes for a long time. I found that, when I asked too many questions about the desired physical attributes in a home, I had set myself (and the buyers) on a path to frustration. I couldn’t find a home that fit all those needs! Take a look at your qualifying questions now. If you’re just focusing on the ‘what’, you’re setting yourself and your buyer up for failure (and the ‘buyers are liars’ scenario).

Finding the ‘Why’ Behind the ‘What’

The key to finding out what drives or motivates the buyer is to ask the next question—the ‘why’ question.

Example: the buyer says, “I want six bedrooms.” You ask, “Why?—or, better yet, “What will that do for you?” Buyer answers, “To provide enough space so my five kids each have their own bedroom. I never had that growing up, and, as a kid, I vowed when I grew up, my family would have the privacy I wish I’d had.” Wow—what a strong motivator to purchase the home he subjectively feels provides his family that personal space!

As a salesperson, you need to go way past the desired features and discover the motives. Develop an attitude like Detective Columbo (a great detective show). Always wearing an old raincoat, Columbo spent his time trying to discover peo­ple’s motives for the crimes he investigated. Without identifying a motive, Columbo couldn’t figure out who did it. But he was very clever to probe and probe until he found out who had the best motive, and he investigated until his suppositions proved him right. I’m going to show you how to investigate until you discover the motive, too.


Following the Evidence to Discover the big ‘Why’


In sales, we call these ‘big why’ motives dominant buying motives (DBMs). They are the drivers that compel buyers to make buying decisions. These are the emotional needs the buyer is seeking to satisfy in every buying decision. Just like Columbo,


We uncover a particular buyer’s dominant buying motive by following the evidence.


From ‘Features’ to Benefits’ to ‘Big Why’


First, we gather the features (the physical attributes of a home). We do that every time we ask the buyer what he wants in a home. We ask the seller why he wants to sell, or where he’s moving. These are the facts. (Most agents stop finding out what the buyer wants once he has gotten the facts. The agent runs out and shows homes to the buyer. He finds one he thinks the buyer should purchase. But the buyers won’t make a buying decision. That’s because facts aren’t com­pelling. Emotions are. We’ll take action to satisfy these strong emotional needs.)


Attach Benefits to Features


Benefits are what the feature will do for the buyer. An example: I want a large country kitchen (feature) because I love to cook with other people (benefit).


Question more deeply. We need to question much more deeply than just asking for the facts. To get to the emotions, we attach benefits and check with the buyer or seller to see if those are the benefits she wants. Finally, we uncover the ‘big why’—the “dominant buying motive’ (DBM)—those motives that are revealed by the benefits the buyer wants. We usually can’t ask directly if the needs. So, after we attach benefits, we need to listen for the strongest motive. Although buyers may want to fulfill several DBMs, there is always one that takes priority over the others. (Think of the buyer who wants a view home in a prestigious area, but gives it up when he finds there’s no yard where his children can play. In this scenario, The DBM prestige fought with the DBM family security, and family security won!)

The Big ‘Whys’—Dominant Buying Motives

Here are the main DBMs, and an example of each:

  • Personal space(whatever a person feels gives him adequate personal space; this is not physical space, and could be 1,000 square feet for some and 10,000 square feet for others. What’s your ‘personal space’ need?)
  • Prestige (they want to live among famous people or in a prestigious area. Do you have a need to live in a prestigious area?)
  • Security (they want a gated community or a condominium with security. Did you choose your last home because of the security?)
  • Family security (they want the best schools or a safe area for their children. Were there 2 homes you wanted to buy, but one offered greater family security for you and your children? Which one did you choose?)

One motive always dominates the others. People often do not know their own dominant buying motives, but they can express their needs in terms of features. They can agree on benefits.

Your job in your interview:

Help buyers trans­late their physical needs to emotional needs.

Idea: People don’t buy homes because it will be a “good investment.” They’re all good investments! What will the good investment do for you? Provide you security. There’s the DBM.

What Insights Do You Have from Prior Buyers?

Think of a case where you thought the buyer was a liar. What kind of questioning did you use? What kind of homes did you show? What kind of home did they buy? What DBM did this home fulfill that you didn’t discover?

Use an Interview/Qualifying Process that Uncovers the ‘Why”

As my gift to you, here is my Qualifying Questionnaire from Buyers, excerpted from my comprehensive buyer’s agent program, The Complete Buyer’s Agent Toolkit. Click here to get the questionnaire.


Manager’sTip: Use this figure with the exercise above in your sales meet­ing to teach agents how to discover dominant buying motives. It’s fun and it will increase their leads to sale conversion rates dramatically.



What About Internet Inquiries?


Don’t focus on any particular ‘delivery method’ for these skills. Even though I’ve been referring to face to face and phone dialogues, you must also use these skills in written dialogue—emails for Internet inquiries. One of the big mistakes agents make in Internet inquiry answers is to run on about the features of a property. No sale, no contact, and no interest is generated! Instead, ask, ‘What attracted you to this particular property?” Attach benefits to the features you give the inquirer, and ask, “Is that important to you?” Tell me more about that.”. Now, you are helping discover—and helping them discover their big ‘why’, and you are creating rapport and trust.


Avoid These Mistakes with The ‘Why’ Sales Strategy


1.      Asking only ‘feature’ questions

2.      Showing homes to buyers based on the ‘features’ they want’

3.      Getting stuck in a rut with buyers who don’t seem motivated

4.      Trying to show their ‘ideal home’ with a list of a gazillion features you can’t find

5.      Losing a buyer because you didn’t show them what they wanted!


How to Do Your Buyer Interview


In your interview process with buyers or sellers, make it a practice to uncover their DBMs. Arrange your questions so you start with features and then ask about benefits, so you can uncover their big ‘why’.


My Qualifying Questionnaire for Buyers


Don’t forget to click here to get my qualifying questionnaire for buyers. It’s arranged in a logical order, and guides you in asking the ‘why’ questions—and in attaching benefits. Use it and see how your leads to sales conversion rates go up.


Want to know much more about converting many more buyers to ‘solds’? Check out The Complete Buyer’s Agent Toolkit.


Carla Cross, CRB, MA, is an international speaker, writer, and coach, specializing in real estate management. A National Realtor Educator of the Year, Carla was recently named one of the 50 most influential women in real estate. Join her newsletter community, and receive Carla’s new eBook, Getting to Yes: Ten Tools to Remove Barriers to a Decision.  Contact Carla at 425-392-6914 or

Related Post

Industry, Education

Negotiating Tip 114: Retreat Negotiations

March 29, 2019

Industry, Education

Negotiating Tip 113: Activating Our Opponent

March 28, 2019

Industry, Education

Negotiating Tip 112: Misconceptions

March 27, 2019

2021 Real Town The Real Estate Network