Scott’s Thoughts: Discovering Motivation

“Truth is rarely writ in ink; it lives in nature.”

Martin H. Fischer, (November 10, 1879 – January 19, 1962), German-born American physician and author

Six whys on this die.

Clients can be a bit of a puzzle. To best serve them, you need to understand their needs and desires, but often there’s a real disconnect between what they say they want and how they behave.

For example, you may find sellers who describe themselves as “highly motivated” dragging their feet on cleaning up their home for listing, or buyers who say they want a sprawling country property, but complain about the distance from stores and other amenities when they visit the listing. This situation is not only frustrating, but costly from a time and energy perspective.

Sometimes this disconnect is due to a failure to understand the root cause of their decision to move, or the qualities they truly value in a home. They themselves may not even understand the motivations behind reaching out to you for help. If you want to act as a trustworthy advisor, nurture the relationship, and preserve your sanity, you need to find a way to work your way to your clients’ core motives.

One tool you might find helpful is the “5 Whys” approach. Originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda at the Toyota Motor Corporation, the process involves asking “why” five times in order to explore cause-and-effect relationships. For Toyota, the “5 Whys” often pointed to a problem with a process. You may find that applying them to your clients reveals an unhappiness with the way their living their life. (Moving is sometimes thought of as a panacea for larger underlying issues.)

Regardless of how you mine your clients’ motivations, do your best to be clear about what they really want, even if they can’t quite see it themselves. Even if they change their mind about moving, they’ll prize your honest counsel.

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