Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interviewing: Asking the Right Questions – When Yes and No Is Not Enough

Have you ever finished an interview and realized you don’t know any more about the person or event than you did before you started. How would you rate the interview pass or fail? Before I realized what I was missing, this happened to me all too often. Whether you are interviewing a new employee candidate, a potential client in real estate, a service provider professional or your children the type of questions you ask will determine the answers you get.

Early on in my career I learned there is a simple solution to this problem and once I found out about it I realized I did it all the time. The key to a successful interview is not to ask “yes or no” question. Simple, but listen to yourself the next time you interview someone.

If you ask only yes or no questions you will get only yes or no answers. When I am on the other side of the table I have been taught not to provide too much information and I love yes and no questions. All I have to do is answer the question and I have provided the interviewer with exactly what he asked, albeit not what he may have wanted.

Never ask a yes and no question, always ask for more information, opinions, descriptions, explanations, etc.

Let’s look at some examples:

A. Have you ever been terminated or laid off from a job?

B. Explain why you left your last 3 places of employment?

A. Do you want to sell you house?

B. Why do you want to sell you house?

A. Did you see the accident occur?

B. What did you see happen?

A. Can you cut down the tree in my yard?

B. How would you cut down this tree hanging over my house?

A. Did you kick your brother?

B. Why did you kick you brother?

Even though these are simple examples you can see where in each case the “B” question will provide you with a better picture and more information from which you can form an opinion.

Yes this is a simple solution but as I said earlier listen to the questions you ask and I believe you will be amazed at how many are yes and no questions. I still have to watch myself to avoid this trap and practice it every day. When I do it right it makes my job a lot easier and successful.

Real Estate - Buying a Short Sell or Bank Owned Property – Be Prepared

Remember the old Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared." As in most aspects of life this is especially true when you decide to get into the short sale and/or bank owned real estate market. There are a lot of great deals out there but, you must be prepared to move quickly when you find the property you want.

In most real estate transaction the seller requires the perspective buyer to have a pre-approval letter from their financial institution and/or proof of funds to submit with their offer of contract. This is especially true with short sales and bank owned transactions. They do this to protect the seller by giving them an indication of the buyer's credit/financial worthiness prior to them taking the property off the market by putting it under contract.

A smart buyer who has done their homework prior to beginning their search is a buyer who is ready to jump on a good deal when one comes up. Not only does it allow the buyer to move quickly it also lets them know what the can and can not do upfront, thus avoiding issues later in the process. This is a win-win necessity.

In our local market there is an abundance of low priced bank owned houses becoming available everyday. This has brought out the cash investors who are looking for great deals and have the cash available to move quickly to lock up these opportunities. As an individual buyer trying to break into this market either as an investor or to purchase your personal home you have to be ready to compete with the cash investor.

During the last several weeks I have seen several buyers lose great deals on a possible new home because they were not prepared to make a quick offer on the property. By the time they got there paperwork ready the listing agent said he already had, in one case, five offers on the property and 3 were cash offers. This could have been avoided and may have resulted in a contract if the buyer had done their homework and been prepared.

It is relatively simple to seek pre-approval from a financial institution. If you have a preferred financial institution or bank that you like dealing with go to them and request it. If you don't have one then ask your real estate agent and they will be able to refer you a reputable financial institution. In either case you will have to answer questions about you income and financial status and the institution will run a credit check on you to help determine if you meet their credit standards. Typical they can have you an answer within 24 to 72 hours.

There are two important caveats to this. The first is this is only a pre- approval and not a final guaranty of credit. A more in-depth approval process will be completed once you have a contract and the mortgage lender has all the information on the property and any additional information on you they may require.

The second is that there is a difference in a "Pre-Approval letter" and a "Pre-Qualification" letter. Generally a pre-qualification letter is not worth the paper it is written on and often used as a sales gimmick. Be sure to specify to your financial institution that you want a "Pre-Approval Letter."

This is a tough market for both sellers and buyers with stiff competition on all sides. But, you can help level the playing field by doing your homework upfront and being prepared.

Just remember; "If you snooze, you lose."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dressing For Success In Today’s Business Environment

Several years ago the latest buzz in the business world was “Dress for success.”  It stressed that part of being successful was looking successful, talking successful, acting successful and basically emulating success in all aspect of your life and actions.

This all revolves around how others perceive you and react to you. The old expression “you only have one chance to make a first impression” is very true. Whether we want to admit it or not we judge people by their appearance. A successful person looks successful and we use this impression as bases for our decisions.

Have you every looked at kids walking down the street with their pants dragging on the ground and trying to hold them up with one hand. I have often thought how ridicules they look. This is my perception of them and this is the perception that will determine how I interact with them. Right or wrong my opinion of them and there abilities is based upon this impression. In most cases this is the only impression I will every have of them so any future interaction will be limited.

Then I look at the way some “professionals” look, dress, and talk. I am amazed at the lack of professionalism in appearance when they come to the office; go out into public and worst of all when they met with clients. Whether we like it or not we are always on display and need to act accordingly.

I look at what they post about themselves on social media and other public outlets. Social media is becoming one of the top sources of initial business contacts which includes real estate, service providers at all levels and other contacts. When I think about it I have to wonder what kind of image are they trying to put across?

When you are thinking about buying or selling what may be the largest single investment of your life do you want some party animal handling your business or do you want a professional working with for you.

Something to think about.

Today in Business - Decision Makers Need to Make it Happen

In today's environment teams, groups and committees are all the rage of the modern corporate structure. It is all about empowerment and flattening out the hierarchy and with more acronyms describing how to do it than sand in an hour glass. Every year new gurus come out with their programs, which are just warmed over last year’s programs, but with a few new letters put together to make the latest and greatest acronym ever. Yet, sometimes you have to step back and remember past advice and apply it today.

When I thought of myself as a young corporate ladder climber and the team concept of management was just starting I had a manager who gave me two pieces of advice on how to implement these practices.

1. “A committee of 3 gets more done when 2 people are absent.”

2. “You don't call a committee to kill a rattlesnake, just kill it.”

In our daily business lives there are times we just need to make a decision. Not stand around and wait for others and see which way the wind is blowing today. There comes a time when we need decision maker who can step up and is not afraid to make decisive decisions. True leaders in business are becoming a rarity. I believe this is in part due to the way we are teaching our young people that everyone is equal and everyone deserves a trophy even if they lose. Leaders lead and should be recognized as such.

In the end we are the only ones responsible for our success or failure and as leaders it is time for us to step up and lead in our area of expertise.

Make it Happen Today!