phone fearA few weeks ago, I got an email from a new investor who was having some serious difficulty talking to prospects on the phone.

The funny thing was – he had actually managed to execute every other step of his process very well.

The only problem was – he was having an incredibly difficult time talking with strangers on the phone. He didn’t know what to say, he didn’t know what questions to ask, and when he didn’t have an immediate answer to a caller’s question, the conversations would get awkward and start to spiral out of control.

The Importance Of Your Phone Skills

The fact is, a serious real estate investor needs to know how to communicate on the phone – there’s just no way around it. In many cases, your first phone call will be the most important interaction you have with a person. Like it or not, this is when your prospect will make some immediate judgements about who you are and whether you’re a trustworthy person they can do business with. I hate to be so blunt – but if you don’t know how to handle yourself on the phone, you’re going to have a very hard time succeeding in the real estate business.

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On the same coin – I think it’s also worth acknowledging that it’s okay to struggle in the beginning…  in fact, I’d be seriously impressed if you didn’t experience some setback as you’re getting started!

A little bit of “phone anxiety” actually makes sense when you think about it…  for most of us – it’s not normal to initiate dozens of conversations with strangers on the phone. When I first started this business, I had a TON of awkward phone conversations (I’ll explain more in a second) but as much as I hated the process – I have to say, it has made me a much better communicator in the end, and that’s a skill that no amount of money can buy.

When people struggle with awkward phone conversations, I think the problem usually boils down to a few things:

1. Discomfort with talking to strangers on the phone

When you’re trying to generate calls from sellers, you’re going to talk to a lot of people you don’t know – people from all walks of life. Some of these conversations will be easier than others and that’s okay.

Talking to strangers doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating but for some reason, a lot people over-think it. We’re all told from a very young age, “Never talk to strangers” and this kind of mindset has been pounded into our psyche for years – it’s no wonder some of us have such a hard time with it! The thing to remember is that the person on the other end of the phone is just another human being. They’re no better than you. They’re no worse than you (and frankly – you don’t ever have to talk to them again if you don’t want to). The conversation will go in whichever direction you allow it to go – so don’t be afraid to step in and steer it where it needs to go.

2. Not knowing what to say when a prospect calls

This is an easy mistake to make and fortunately, it’s probably the easiest problem to solve. Whenever you’re talking to a new prospect, just think of it as though you’re going through a questionnaire. You should have a very simple list of questions that you need them to answer for you – and the point of the call is simply to get as many answers as you can.

It doesn’t need to be a long list (mine has about 15 questions on it), but you should come up with a basic checklist of the vital information you need in order to make an offer (or run in the other direction).

RELATED: What Do You Say When A Seller Calls? How To Ask The Right Questions Of Your Prospects

Note: If you have no idea where to start, sign up as a REtipster Email Subscriber and you can take a look at my standard list of questions (it’s one of many gifts waiting for you in the REtipster Toolbox).

3. Lack of Self-Confidence

When I was a new investor, this was by far my biggest problem (and it took me a long time to realize it). My lack of confidence had everything to do with the way I perceived myself. I considered myself to be an inexperienced “kid” who had no idea what he was doing. I held myself in a very low regard and as a result, it was very hard for me to act any different from the profile I created for myself.

If you want to get good at talking on the phone with a total stranger, you must have confidence yourself. Let’s get one thing straight – you are NOT here to impress anyone. The point of your first call is to simply get acquainted with the seller’s situation and get some answers. Be friendly and talk with a positive tone, but don’t act submissive. Remember, if you’re talking to the right people – they’re going to need YOU more than you need them. If someone is rude or starts disrespecting you, the conversations get real simple – you end it.

You don’t need to take abuse from someone who doesn’t even know you – so if it starts going down this road, simply walk away.

My Experience With Bad Phone Calls

Most you probably don’t know this, but I have had PLENTY of experience with awkward phone conversations in my life.

Early in my career – I used to suffer from a debilitating level of anxiety when it came to phone conversations. I was a complete and utter nervous wreck. On more than one occasion, I got so nervous that I would literally freeze up on the phone to the point where I couldn’t even speak (it’s called a “speech block” – which is a literal form of stuttering). It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my adult life – no joke. I allowed it to become a HUGE stumbling block and then proceeded to beat myself up about it.

I know from experience that a bad phone conversation (regardless of who it’s with) can be a terrible feeling. When a phone call spirals out of control and goes down in flames – it can do some serious damage to a person’s sense self-confidence (especially if you internalize this kind of thing like I did).

I know I’m not the only person who struggled with this. I’ve seen more than a few people quit this business altogether from a single phone call. It’s that bad.

Practice Makes Perfect

Sethi1If you’re struggling with clear communication on the phone, let me tell you that it’s OKAY to crash and burn on the phone every once in a while (especially if you’re a total beginner at this). It’s not uncommon AT ALL for the first one or two (or three, or four) phone calls to be awkward and uncomfortable. What’s important is that you don’t give up.

It is very important to practice. After doing so many of these calls for years on end, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even think twice about picking up the phone anymore. Talking to strangers on the phone has become almost as natural as breathing…  but I only got to this point because I practiced.

Likewise, the only way you’re ever going to get better is if you continue to pick up the phone and make those calls, even after you have one of those “bad experiences”. I want you to sound like an expert on the phone because this is a skill that will take you a long way in life (even if it has nothing to do with real estate).

It takes practice, so keep going – even when it gets tough.

Develop & Memorize A Few “Canned Phrases”

I’ve found that it’s important to have a few scripted phrases when you’re making these calls – simple sentences to fall back on (just so you sound like you know what you’re doing).

For example – you can start each conversation with an opening line about who you are and why you sent them a postcard:

“I’m an investor and I buy properties all over the country. I sent you that postcard because I saw that you were a property owner in an area that I’d like to invest in.”

“I’m a real estate investor and I buy houses from people all over the country who want to be relieved from the burden of their unwanted property.”

You can also insert a brief explanation of why you’re interested in their particular property

“The reason you got that postcard from me is because I found your name in the public records as a land owner. Since I’m looking specifically for vacant land in this area, I wanted to see if you’d be interested in selling your property any time soon.”

If they start acting rude, badgering you with questions or accuse you a being a scammer (which is quite rare, btw), just be nice and say something like this.

“Like I said, I’m just an investor looking for potential investment properties in your area. I have cash and I’m ready buy in the next 30 days…   but it doesn’t sound like you’re interested in working together – best of luck in finding a buyer elsewhere! Goodbye.”

These kinds of “canned phrases” helped me A LOT. When I got into a situation where I was unsure of how to respond – I could fall back on these phrases (which I knew very well). As a result, I was able to sound much more confident, which led people to trust me and be more open to what I had to say (and this ultimately resulted in doing more deals and making more money).

RELATED: Getting People To Say YES

Experience Is The Best Teacher

Lewis11Believe me, I’ve had plenty of awkward phone calls in my time. Sometimes they just don’t go well, at all…  but don’t let this get you down. This is a very normal part of the learning process, and you will get better in time.

The first time you have a conversation with a prospective seller, you have a golden opportunity to speak directly with the source of MUCH of the information you’re going to need. This is important because you can usually glean 90% of the information you’ll need to know before you decide to purchase (all subject to verification, of course).

If you’re dealing with shyness (or an overall lack of confidence), this video from Ramit Sethi may offer some valuable insights as well.

And if you need an example of what solid, confident phone call looks like, here’s an example from Claude Diamond and Joe McCall:

And last but not least, be sure to check out this insightful blog post from Karl James – who did a masterful job of summarizing his experience and growing process.

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About the author

Seth Williams is a land investor with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of - a real estate investing blog that offers real-world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  1. Irish says:

    Hi, I work full-time and just getting started in REI as a wholesaler. I need to do most things on the weekend and I’m concerned about the right time to call potential sellers. Any suggestions?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Irish – I understand completely. It’s impossible to say that any one particular time is perfect for every seller – but I’ve found that most week nights (between 5pm – 8:00pm) are fair game, and weekends (between 12:00pm and 8:00pm) are fair game as well. That should give you a big enough window to have most of your conversations… not to mention, when people DON’T answer – it’s easy, just leave a voicemail and they’ll call you back when it works for them. Does that make sense?

  2. Irish says:

    Yes, thank you

  3. Scott Costello says:


    I have to say this is with out a doubt my biggest issue in life, let alone in my real estate business. I actually have a blog post a wrote about this a few years ago but never published it because I didn’t want to admit to everyone that I have this problem.

    I’d much rather talk to someone in person then on the phone. The phone eliminates visual ques (sp??) you pick up during conversation that help keep my conversations going. When I can see the persons face I can see that I’m loosing them and can adjust.

    My entire life I’ve had trouble speaking the words my mind thinks of. The words come out in strange orders that don’t make sense sometimes (I feel like yoda LOL). When that happens I have to then try and explain what I just said. So on the phone there are many awkward silences and confusions.

    It’s not just talking to people I don’t know, I have issues like that when I talk with my friends or my parents. It’s tough for people to understand, so I’m just not a big talker.

    I get around this in my RE business by having my partner do all the phone calls. Interesting topic for sure Seth, thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hey Scott, thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate you sharing your past struggles (and it’s good to know I’m not alone :). I’m willing to bet that this kind of awkwardness plagues A LOT of people – it’s just a question of which people are willing to figure out a style that works for them. It can be a tough nut to crack, but I think it’s doable for everyone if the desire is there.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts buddy!

      1. Scott Costello says:

        No problem Seth thanks for listening

        I’m wondering if I can ever close a deal over email and avoid the whole talking on the phone thing entirely…lol

        1. Seth Williams says:

          Hi Scott – absolutely! I just closed a deal this past December where 100% of my “required correspondence” with the seller was through email (I did talk with her on the phone twice, but they weren’t “necessary” conversations – she just had a few spur of the moment questions for me – no big deal).

          I think it can be done without the phone, but it depends greatly on:

          1. Your level of skill at communicating via the written word
          2. The other party’s competence at writing & email communication (surprisingly, A LOT of people are terrible at it, which can make the process much more difficult)

          That being said – I would advise against “hiding” behind your computer. As a general rule of thumb, if you know you need improvement at something, it’s best to continue working at it, even when it’s uncomfortable.

    2. Stars says:

      I have exactly the same problem! It is so hard for me to explain something to someone because the words are all over the place and I have just got a job that requires me to speak on the phone at all times and I am not sure how to deal overcome the fear of talking on the phone. :(( and because that I am hating this job.

      1. Seth Williams says:

        I used to have this to some extent. For me, the issue boiled down to my lack of self confidence. I didn’t feel sure about what I was doing or saying, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was dumb. I cared WAY too much about what other people thought of me, and because of that it made my job much harder for a while. When I finally started giving myself permission to be who I was, things smoothed out very quickly.

  4. Azhar123 says:

    Its really very nice article you have posted, very useful for me.

  5. John Ferrell says:

    I like that you mentioned that if you want to get good at talking on the phone then you have to have confidence in yourself. I had to call a restaurant and the guy that answered acted really mean. Thankfully, I had the confidence to continue the conversation until I got what I wanted. I think that if you have confidence then you will be able to do more than you think.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      I totally agree John – some would even argue that confidence is everything. Without being sure of who you are and what you stand for, it’s hard to accomplish anything meaningful in life.

  6. Ariel says:

    well I just messed up my a call twice. first I hung up and her and after I messed the message up. I suck. commenting from the company computer.

    1. Been there, done that (and I’m still living to talk about it). I know this kind of thing can seem horrible in the moment, but honestly, you’ll be fine. People on the other end care FAR less than you probably realize.

Bonus: Get a FREE copy of the INVESTOR HACKS ebook when you subscribe!

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Want to learn about the tools I’ve used to make over $40,000 per deal? Get immediate access to videos, guides, downloads, and more resources for real estate investing domination. Sign up below for free and get access forever.

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