Are Buyers Really Liars? How to Listen Like a Detective

by | Jun 10, 2015 | Sales Motiviation

By Jeff Beals

“Buyers are liars.”

That’s an age-old saying in the commercial real estate business.

When I’m not speaking and consulting, I lead marketing efforts for a regional real estate firm. I hear people in the real estate industry use the saying from time to time. I’ve heard it used in other industries as well. I’m not a fan of the saying, because using it can emotionally pull you apart from a client, but there have been times when I too have thought “buyers are liars.”

Why do real estate brokers sometimes utter these words? Is it because grizzled old veterans get cynical and jaded after years of real estate trench warfare?

Perhaps that’s the case for some burned-out old timers, but it’s not the main reason.

Is it because real estate brokers harbor feelings of hostility toward their clients?

No, it’s not that either. Most professionals are grateful they have clients.

Real estate brokers like to use the term “buyers are liars,” because sometimes they’ll work hard trying to find the perfect property or the ideal lease for a client only to have that client later say they want something completely different.

Is that the buyer’s fault?

Occasionally. But not usually.

While some people choose to mislead a real estate broker for whatever reason, blame is usually placed at the foot of the real estate professional.  Brokers sometimes think “buyers are liars” because the brokers themselves are not really listening. More significantly, they are not listening as intensely and studiously as they should.

The key is to listen like a detective.  Think like a detective.  Act like a detective.

Ask questions and carefully listen. You need to listen as intently and actively as a detective listens while interrogating a suspect in a homicide or some other serious crime.

I have often thought that many of the activities professionals (of any industry) do each day are analogous to the work done by detectives.

Whether you are selling, negotiating, fundraising, proposing or convincing, your success depends on conveying information and getting information out of somebody else. There are times when your clients, colleagues and vendors do not want you to know the whole story. Other times, they may accidentally omit important parts of the information.

As a “detective,” you need to keep digging. Turn over the rocks. Scratch the dirt. Use your Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass. Don’t take things at face value. If you have any doubts or feel like there is even the slightest hole in the information you are receiving, you need to keep questioning – and listening – like a detective.

During interrogation, criminal suspects have a vested interest in the outcome, which is why they lie, withhold, mislead and evade. Detectives look for inconsistencies in their stories and take cues from suspects’ body language. When detectives get the sense that they might be making progress in an interrogation, they start to go deeper, asking more detailed and intricate questions.

Hopefully, your professional interactions are not as grave and adversarial as a criminal interrogation. Nevertheless, you must know that many of the people with whom you interact feel compelled to withhold information. You need to get that information out of them, because it has a direct impact on your success.

Even when the other person and you have a mutual interest, it’s not uncommon for the truth to lie beneath the surface. Keep questioning and listening intently until you are convinced you have unearthed the whole story.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to or email at or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

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