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Decide already! 8 steps for beating analysis paralysis with confidence

Not sure how to make a decision or guide your clients to one? This simple formula provides a process that leads to clarity and confidence

Both top coaches and megaproducers know how to ask powerful questions that help their clients solve the challenges they face. “Occam’s Razor” provides an eight-step process that will help you navigate almost any personal or business problem you may encounter.

Occam’s Razor argues that the fastest way to find the truth or the best explanation for almost any type of problem is to eliminate unnecessary information. In other words, “The simplest solution is always the best.”

As part of applying the eight-step process outlined below, the coach or the agent must stay in curiosity by asking “how” and “what” questions, carefully listen to their clients’ responses (including writing them down), and then “dig deeper” to uncover the real source of the problem their clients are facing.

Step No. 1: Identify the problem

Questions to ask:

  • What happened?

  • What’s going on?

  • What’s the problem you’re facing?

When a problem occurs, the client may go into reaction mode and may even be angry. They want the problem fixed and may expect you to fix it for them. At this point, shift to discovery mode by asking “how” and “what” questions that will help you uncover the exact nature of the problem.

Step No. 2: Gather data

Questions to ask:

  • Starting at the beginning, exactly what happened?

Once they reply, dig deeper by asking:

  • What happened then?

  • Would you say more about that, please?

  • What else do you want me to know about this situation?

  • What information, data, or sources do you have that can help us resolve this issue?

Be sure you capture what they tell you in your written notes.

Step No. 3: Analyze the data to identify ‘root causes’

Questions to ask:

  • What’s your primary concern?

  • From your perspective, what’s the most important issue here?

  • I see you’re angry/frustrated. What’s the biggest reason for your anger/frustration?

In professional coaching, there is a model called “Symptom, Source, Solution.” Where most agents and coaches get stuck is that they focus on symptoms as opposed to digging deeper to get to the root of the problem.

To illustrate this point, you may have a fever but is it due to a virus, an abscessed tooth, an infected cut, or an allergic reaction? In each of these examples, it’s like you’re playing Whac-a-Mole—the problem will keep cropping up until the underlying source is identified and addressed.

The bottom line is that when you have a client who is angry, screaming or behaving badly, in almost every case, the source is fear. For Realtors, it’s your client’s fear about not getting the house, not being able to make the payments, fear of possibly losing their job, fear of not getting as much money as they had hoped for, etc.

Avoid getting caught up in the drama and stay focused on being the calm within the storm. When you realize that anger almost always results from fear, keep asking how and what questions to see if you can identify the root or source of the issue.

Step No. 4: Generate solutions

Questions to ask:

  • What could you do?

  • What choices do you have?

  • Let’s make a list of what you could do, no matter how outrageous or ridiculous it is.

These questions allow you to brainstorm a wide variety of possible solutions with your client. The last question encourages them to come up with outrageous or ridiculous solutions that can help move the client from anger to sometimes even laughing.

Here’s a great example that I’ve used when my sellers were livid about a very low offer.

If you’re that unhappy with the buyer’s offer, you can always counter back OVER asking price.

At first, most clients never considered countering back over asking price. Once they realize this is a possibility, it’s amazing to watch their mood shift from anger to gleefully discussing how much over asking they want to counter.

Step No. 5: Select the ‘best’ solution

Questions to ask:

Based upon the list they generated during the brainstorming ask:

  • Of all the things you could do, what do you want to do?

  • Of all the possible solutions we discussed, what choice will result in the best possible outcome for you?

In the case of an extremely low offer, before I would write the counter over asking price, I would dig deeper to make sure they really wanted to kill the deal:

I have found that about 50 percent of the time when a seller receives an offer substantially under the asking price, we can put those deals together. If you want to see if this is part of the 50 percent that ultimately do close, then let’s stay at the negotiation table. If you’re positive that you don’t want to do business with this buyer no matter what, then how much over asking price do you want me to write the counteroffer?

Step No. 6: Implement the solution

Questions to ask:

  • What steps need to be taken to implement this solution?

  • What’s one action step that you could take right now to address this problem?

A classic issue occurs when a buyer finds themselves in a multiple offer situation. The best way to handle this is to explain that the buyer has the following choices and then ask the buyer, “How would you like me to negotiate the counteroffer on your behalf?” Here are the options I typically discussed with my clients when we learned there was at least one other offer on the property:

  • You can go ahead and write your offer at the same price you initially planned to offer and, if the other offer is higher, I can always request that the seller give all buyers a counteroffer.

  • If you really want this house, you can increase the initial offer you had planned to make.

  • If this house is the one you absolutely must have no matter what, then you may want to counter over asking price.

  • Are there any other solutions that I may have missed? If not, how would you like me to negotiate this offer on your behalf?

Step No. 7: Did the solution work?

Questions to ask:

  • There’s only one question to ask here, “Have we solved the problem?”

If not, the problem will continue to pop up in different forms or types of objections.

For example, a client may be willing to cancel the transaction over some trivial concession or item on the inspection report. The concession, however, is the symptom.

In almost every case when a client acts out, the source is fear. Will they be laid off from their job? Will the interest rates increase again before they close? Will the appraisal come in low? Will some unexpected problem keep them from closing? Will they be able to still make the payments after they close?

If your client keeps coming up with objections that don’t seem to make a lot of sense, ask about additional concerns they may have. Run through concerns about the loan, the appraisal, items on the inspection report, the closing, and post-closing.

Step No. 8: Continue to improve

Questions to ask:

  • What worked, what didn’t work?

  • In retrospect (referencing the issue your client experienced), what would you have done differently?

  • In your opinion, what can I have done differently to address this issue?

An excellent way to uncover these issues is to do a post-closing survey that addresses these issues. For example, in the case where your buyer lost out on a multiple offer, you could ask,

If you had it to do over again, what changes (if any) would you have made in how you asked me to negotiate the multiple offer on your behalf?

The next time you encounter a business or a personal problem, keep these eight steps handy to guide you through the problem-solving process using Occam’s Razor as a model.

  1. Identify the problem.

  2. Gather data.

  3. Analyze the data to identify “root causes.”

  4. Generate solutions.

  5. Select the best solution.

  6. Implement the solution.

  7. Did the solution work?

  8. Continue to improve.


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