A lot of new real estate investors get VERY excited when they realize how powerful a direct mail campaign can be.

It’s true—finding great deals can be exponentially easier once you start communicating with the right people in the right way (and in large enough numbers).

When most proactive investors figure this out, they spring into action. They start sending mail all over the place in a whirlwind of excitement (that’s what I did, anyway). It’s great to see a beginner being proactive like this, but at the same time, it’s very easy to let the cart get ahead of the horse.

When you’re putting together your first direct mail campaign, there’s one thing you NEED to nail down before you drop those mailers in the mailbox: the right questions.

When the Calls Start Coming In…

The first time I sent out a direct mail campaign, I actually freaked out when the first person called me. This is funny, as they were doing exactly what I asked them to do. A flurry of thoughts then went through my mind:

I eventually realized that all of these questions came from one simple problem: I had no idea how to lead the conversation.

And why didn’t I know how to lead the conversation? Because I didn’t know what questions to ask.

Albert Einstein successSome people are naturally gifted at “winging it” and figuring out what to say on the fly. Believe me—most people don’t work this way, especially when they’re just figuring things out for the first time. For most of us, it’s not normal to have dozens of phone conversations with complete strangers about properties we know nothing about. As a rule of thumb, if you want to have an effective and productive first phone call, you need to know what questions to ask.

RELATED: How to Overcome Phone Anxiety and Speak With Confidence In 3 Simple Steps

Making a Checklist

The solution to my problem was quite simple. All I really needed was a basic set of instructions on what to say when the phone rang. Not a “script” per se, but something that would prompt me on how to start the conversation, what comes next, and how to wrap it up.

So I created a simple “checklist” to help me through each conversation.

The “checklist” was just a list of all the essential questions I needed to be answered to make an offer. It helped me a lot; even after the thousands of calls I’ve had over the years, I still use it to this day!

If you’re struggling with what to say when you’re talking to prospects, I strongly suggest that you prepare a specific set of targeted questions. Nothing too crazy—just the basic stuff you need to know—and use them to guide you through every conversation.

Want the Exact Checklists I Use?

Knowing what to ask your prospects is pretty simple. You just need to take a few minutes and think about it:

  • The information you will need to know to make an educated offer.
  • The things you need to research before you’re ready to close the transaction.
  • What may cause you to say “YES, I want to buy!” or “HECK NO!” and run the other way? Figure out what those things are and ask about them!

That being said—I do understand the dilemma for new investors. When you’re starting from scratch, the relevant questions aren’t always obvious. There can be all sorts of hidden issues that don’t rear their ugly faces until after they’ve become a problem. So if you’re looking for a quick solution on how to handle this—I’d love to help you out.

due diligence checklists

Keep in mind: if you want to fully automate your “information-gathering” process, check out my detailed blog post on How to Create a Buying Website. You might be surprised—it’s easier than you’d think. Best of luck!

Knowing What You Need to Know

So what kinds of questions should be on your phone call checklist?

First off—it depends on what kind of property you’re targeting. For example, most of the properties I buy are vacant land, so when a property owner calls me to discuss their vacant land property, this is what my checklist looks like:

vacant land checklist

A lot of other investors (including myself from time to time) are looking specifically for single-family houses. I’ve got another unique checklist for the purpose of discussing these properties:

single family home checklist

And other investors are looking for multi-family properties. I’ve got a checklist for those too!

multi family checklist

I’ve also got checklists for self-storage facilities, farmland, and more. Every type of property needs its own checklist because every property type has unique attributes and features that need to be accounted for.

Targeted Questions Save Time

Now—I’m not saying my checklists are perfect (even though they’ve done pretty well for me). But when the sellers start calling, you’d better be armed with the right questions.

RELATED: How I Find Motivated Sellers (And Get Them Calling Me)

Think about it—if you don’t thoroughly understand what you need to know, why are you asking people to respond to you in the first place? Even if you choose to send out blind offersyou’re still going to get a lot of phone calls back. And it’s important to use these opportunities to get as many answers from the property owner as possible.

Direct mail campaigns certainly aren’t free, so don’t start shelling out money and sending mail until you know how to handle these kinds of conversations.

This is why I created these checklists because my pea-sized brain just isn’t big enough to remember everything in the heat of the moment. These checklists have become an incredibly important aspect of my initial contact with each person, and they act as a key piece of my due diligence. It doesn’t necessarily give me ALL the answers, but it does help me get started on the right foot with each caller.

The Right Information Has Many Uses

A few years into my investing career, I started to get tired of phone calls. Even though the phone had proven to be a great way to connect with people, build rapport, and establish trust, I just didn’t have the time and energy for it.

So what did I do? I created a websiteone designed to replace me.

Instead of asking my prospects to call me (and chew up 30+ minutes of my time with each call), I started telling them to visit my website. There, they could submit all the exact same information I would have asked for over the phone.

That’s right! Instead of me verbally asking the questions and jotting down their answers in real-time, the website could gather all the same information without my constant involvement. Instead of me being the bottleneck in my business, the website could do this aspect of my job 24/7. It asked the questions I needed to know (via a property submission form) and answered the questions guests had for me (via my FAQ page). They simply filled out a short questionnaire (which includes many of the same questions from my property checklist). Once they hit “submit,” the information went directly to my inbox.

With this website, I could go through each submission at my leisure—giving it a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” in a matter of seconds (not hours). It is WAY more efficient.

Now don’t get me wrong. In some situations, the phone is a FAR better communication tool than a website. In this initial “information-gathering stage,” I found that it’s less about how the questions are asked and more about getting the questions answered quickly. Having a website means I don’t have to waste time on deals that will never come to fruition.

About the author

Seth Williams is the Founder of - an online community that offers real-world guidance for real estate investors.

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