• Figure out who the decision maker is at the beginning.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Work to help the homebuyers accomplish their goals, but make sure those goals are legit.

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Let me tell you the story of my first sale and what I learned from the process. I began my real estate career in 1975 at the ripe old age of 23.

Back then, almost no one chose real estate as a first career. They went into the business in their 40s or early 50s after having left two jobs — leaving one and getting fired from another.

I was a bit intimidated by those around me who were twice my age. Nevertheless, I chose this career after much research, which is another story, and I decided to be the best I could be — age be damned.

The oil embargo of the early ’70s that produced a shortage of gasoline was just beginning to ebb, and there was not a multitude of buyers and sellers in the market. After some weeks of phone duty, I finally took a call from someone wanting to see one of our listings.

We agreed that I would pick him and his wife up at their apartment and drive them to the home. After viewing the home, they decided it was not for them because, as the husband stated, “I need a room for my pool table.”

I told them I would research other listings that might have such a room, and I would call them (from the office — there were no cell phones back then).

After finding a few that might meet their needs, I called back to schedule a time to get together. We agreed on the Saturday the following week.

I spent that morning driving to the listing agent’s offices to pick up the keys (no lock boxes) and marking in my map book (no GPS) where these listings were. I picked the couple up, armed with my map book and the real estate listings book (no online MLS), and off we went.

After viewing several homes, I was starting to get discouraged because none of these would meet the client’s need for a pool table room. I told them I would look for others, and we could meet the following weekend.

He was unable to meet, so I picked his wife up, and off we went. On the way to the first listing, she said to me, “I have something to tell you. We don’t own a pool table and most likely never will. It’s my husband’s dream, so let’s just see what you’ve got for us today.”

I eventually found them just the right house that, by the way, would not hold a pool table. And I learned one precious lesson: ask questions!

I also learned that she was the primary decision maker — another valuable lesson — and that she didn’t want to waste a room on an imaginary pool table.

And 40 years later, this is still fresh in my mind because the house they bought was next door to my childhood home, which I had left only a few years prior.

Dennis M. Donahue is talent attraction and advancement for Engel & Völkers South Charlotte. Check out Engel & Völkers on Facebook.