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How to ask Quality Questions

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Do you ever ask a question and get this?

You thought your question was perfectly clear, but the answer you received–if you got an answer–didn’t really tell you what you wanted to know.

If this happens to you with frequent regularity, there are a couple of things you might want to know.

First, In the absence of rules, people make up their own rules.

This applies to communication as well as other things, like traffic, politics and relationships. In communication, if simple ground rules are not agreed upon in advance, then the question you are asking may not be the question your responder is hearing.

Simple rules in communication can be as basic as vocabulary. In commercial lending, where terminology can be very specific, if you ask about “funding” you are likely to get the response above; whereas, if you ask about a loan, you will get a different answer. Example, “do you have a lender who will fund my deal?” is a different question than, “Do you have a lender who will lend me money on my purchase, refinance, renovation, construction project, etc.?”

If you are new to commercial real estate, either as an investor or broker, then one of the first things I recommend is to become familiar with the vocabulary. Learn to speak the language, as it were.

Secondly, know that the meaning of your communication is the response that you get.

If the response to your question does not get you the answer you were looking for, then either ask your question differently or ask another question.

By the way, another great question to ask would be, “What did you just hear me ask you for?”  That way you not only get some insight into what the person you were asking actually heard, but you also get some insight as to how to rephrase your question to get a response that is more meaningful to you.

Okay, so now for my rant.

I cannot begin to tell you the number of questions I get from borrowers and brokers that are impossible to answer!  They are impossible to answer because either they are asking the wrong question, or the question is so hypothetical that the answer is meaningless.

Here’s an example: “Do you think your lender will be interested in this deal?”

Before I answer the question, tell me how the answer, any answer, will help you in any way, shape or form? If I say, “yes,” what happens next?  If I say, “No”, same question. How about if I say, “It depends?” How is any answer to your question going to take you to the next step?

Here’s another question I get all the time: “I have a borrower (or, I am a borrower) looking for X amount on a commercial deal. Do you have anyone who could do that?” Same as above. If I answer your question as asked, how does the answer help you out?

Why are these questions so impossible to answer?  Because they don’t make sense in the world of commercial real estate. They are too vague, leave out too many specifics; and are not tied to an actual situation in a meaningful way.

The right way to ask questions

“The secret to asking a really good quality question is a presupposition.”

Now what, you may ask, is a presupposition?  Good question! 

“A presupposition is a thing tacitly assumed at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.”

Clear as mud, right?  Let me give you some examples. Asking something like, “Can you do that?” doesn’t get the creative juices flowing. It’s a yes/no question. Now if you were to ask instead, “How can you do that?” The listener’s mind immediately starts coming up with solutions.  The question assumes that there is a solution and also assumes that the listener provide the solution.

Let me translate this idea into commercial real estate. Don’t ask, “Can your lender do this deal?” Instead, ask, “How would your lender do this deal?” or “How could your lender do this deal?” Now, we can get down to specifics. The specifics include:

  • Who is asking for the loan?
  • What type of property is it?
  • Where is the property located?
  • When do you need to close the loan?
  • Why do you need the money?
  • How much money do you want to borrow?

Quality Questions lead to Quality Responses!

If you’d like to learn more about how to ask Quality Questions in commercial real estate. We’re happy to give you a free mini-consult. CONTACT US