It’s important to ask the right questions in a commercial listing presentation. Here’s a couple reasons: to build rapport, demonstrate authority and expert status, and uncover motivation. Ultimately this will help you, help your client.

Let’s dig in to some questions and thoughts about each one. Keep in mind some of these are not to be user verbatim as below, you’ll be able to form the question into your own words.

1. Why are they considering selling?

This is an obvious question and yet the most important question. His motivation is the root cause to make a sale happen. Without knowing the motivation, how can you keep a deal on track when a problem arises? If you can understand his true motivation you have power.

It’s common for sellers to waiver when it comes to down to the closing table. Doubt creeps in. It’s a big decision to sell a commercial property! When this time comes (and it will) you’ll be empowered to bring him back on track. Remind him of the reason for selling in the first place.

Now there are instances where there are legitimate reasons why he may want to back out of a deal or take the property off market and obviously you don’t want to go against the will of your client. Make sure he’s not getting in his own way.

2. Is that their true reason for selling?

After they tell you why they want to sell, obviously don’t insult them by asking “is that your true reason?” If you feel they are being vague on purpose or honestly don’t know the true reason for selling you need to dig deeper. Find out… stealth mode.

Sometimes it’s not so straight forward what their motivation is. Many people hold details close to the chest for fear of giving too much information away. Don’t fault them for this.

If your client says she wants to sell to make more money and is stuck on “money”, there’s probably a reason why she wants to sell to make more money. Feed indirect questions throughout your meeting to see if you can find a true motivation. Most people don’t want more money for money’s sake (although some do), rather what the money will allow them to do. Maybe it’s to start a college fund for a child, maybe it’s to sponsor a foreign child’s upbringing in a 3rd-world country or support a cause they truly care about. Which you may not find out if you are communicating with a self-less person that keeps close to the chest for reasons we’ll never know.

Try your best to find out without being pushy or aggressive. It may take several meetings for a client to open up to you, so give it time if needed.

3. What will selling allow you to do?

A reason to sell is more than just what’s on the surface, or what the client says. Asking probing questions (in a delicate manner) can reveal a deeper meaning or rather another story altogether. I once learned that going 3 levels deep was the magic ticket. Asking “why is that reason to sell important to you Mr. Seller?” 3 times gives you tremendous insight, and helps solidify the client’s true motivations publicly.

Example: “Why do you want to sell?” you ask, “I’m retiring and want to simplify my life” he responds. “Why is that important to you”. Well I’d like to travel and don’t want any distractions.” “Wow that’s great. What about traveling is important to you?” “My wife has wanted to travel the country for 40 years and it’s what we’ve been planning on doing for years.” This is excellent insight you can use to help keep the ball rolling.

4. If they do sell what will they do with proceeds?

What’s their plan? Will it go into a bank? Will it be reinvested into more real estate? You want to find this out. That is if you care about the future of this client. If they plan on buying something immediately or not for a few months, you will need to know that. If they knew that they will have to pay a truck-load of taxes they will need to know the ramifications before hand. Does their plan have a hole in it?

You are their second set of eyes. I’ve been in situations where the client anticipated on a particular given end result. Only after conversation with me did they realize they were wrong in their assumption and going thru as they originally intended would’ve had drastic consequences.

You may be able to advise them into a better solution. Simple realizations between you and a client can build instant credibility, trust, respect, and loyalty. Clients who are loyal and have your trust are evangelists for your brand. This is how powerful referrals get created!

5. How much do they expect to sell for, and how much will they net?

What they expect from the proceeds is important to know. Even better is to find out that number, before you give a number. The power is shifted into your caring hands. We want to avoid surprises at all costs.

Nothing is worse than an owner who thinks her property is worth 30% higher than the market value. This creates skepticism in you no matter what evidence you have to support it. This could kill a relationship immediately.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a similar effect. Come in with a price too high and she thinks you’re trying the “buy” the listing and telling her what she want to hear. Her radar goes off like a fire alarm. Now you can’t do too much to combat this when it happens, facts are the facts. However you can tweak your presentation to soften her up first, or tell a story that gets the point across without doing damage. Bottom line, get the client on your side of the table and not on the other side.

Net is important too. If they have a false perception of closing costs or broker costs, again it’s best to know this right away and address it.

Read Questions 6-10

Steve Walters
Steve Walters
Hi I'm Steve! Commercial real estate agent and co-founder of Straight Talk Commercial Real Estate Academy. My vision is to educate and empower real estate professionals, investors, and would-be real estate folks into the fun world of commercial property. I truly believe in the power of it to transform lives for the better. It starts with proper education paired with a "can-do" attitude! Check out some awesome free training at

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