The secret to a long, successful real estate career? Ditch the sales pitches and swagger. Just listen.

By Diane Terry

I am often asked what I feel is the secret to my 30-plus-year successful career. The answer for me is simple. It is understanding the importance of your listening skills. Stephen Covey said it best: No one cares how much you know until they know you care. I have seen fellow agents dish out thousands of dollars to learn “pitches” and, God forbid, “swagger.” I assure you there is not one past client I was honored to work with who cared about my swagger, and they would smell a sales pitch a mile away.

In the many listening workshops I teach and with the private coaching clients I have, we start first by understanding the type of listener you are. There are basically 11 listening modes to which we tend to default. You can find them in an excellent book called “Listen Like You Mean It,” by Ximena Vengoechea. It is very important to understand what your default mode is so you can be aware of your behavior and train yourself out of it.

For example, I am a problem-solver. The minute a client begins to share their problem, I am troubleshooting the issue five different ways in my mind. Before I learned to train myself out of this, I was so busy solving the problem that I was not staying present, remaining quiet and listening for the “real” problem, and probing for more.

All people need a bit of a warmup before they get to the core issue. So, they may give you what is easy to share, but unless you create a safe space and all the time in the world, then they are not going to trust you enough to share the REAL issue. The first problem shared is rarely the real one. If you do not know how to listen, you are going to waste your time showing how you can solve the wrong or incomplete problem.

When I meet sellers in their homes and I notice that I am doing the talking and not them, I silently reprimand myself with W.A.I.T. — “why am I talking”? I am learning nothing if I am doing the talking. Remember, “words conceal, silence reveals.” Get comfortable with silence. Did you know that in the U.S., people jump in after 4.6 seconds of silence due to discomfort? Contrast that to Japan, where it is 8.2 seconds. In the silence is a sea of possibilities.

Learn the type of listening style you default to in a client situation, and create a safe space for them to reveal what is most important to them. Learn how to ask great questions. Know how to probe deeper. Seeing good listening as a cooperative conversation vs. listening to “win” will serve you well, not only in business, but in all the areas of your life.

Who else would like to see a collective discussion of our industry revolve more around integrity, honor, work ethic, privilege, fiscal responsibility, a standard of excellence and the sacredness of our vocation? How about less of things like pitch, swagger, pay per click, buying leads, “use your buyers as bait” and sending unsolicited CMAs?

We are better than this. Let’s all hone our listening skills and become invaluable partners in our clients’ journeys of success.

Diane Terry is a 30-plus-year real estate professional in the Seattle area. She is the chairperson for Windermere Real Estate’s In City Standards of Practices Committee and has been for six years. She has recently parlayed her coaching and teaching skills into She offers talks, workshops and one-on-one coaching on listening skills, business planning, boundaries and women in business.

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