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The Art of Socratic Selling



A few weeks ago we discussed why “sell” needn’t be perceived as a four-letter word. Now let’s delve a little deeper, and think about the features and benefits of reverse mortgages. Do you think that’s what you sell to prospective clients in order to elicit a quote request? If your response is yes, question this assumption. In so doing, you’ll be moving towards Socratic dialogue — the key to successful sales.

The ancient Greek philosopher may have known nothing about the modern sales process, yet Socrates was a master marketer. In teaching his students to ask a series of logical questions that make the listener question his or her assumptions, Socrates unwittingly created a strategy that causes prospects to open up, become comfortable discussing their situation in detail — and actually “partner” with you to identify the key issue(s) that will win the sale!

Socratic selling also means allowing your prospect the floor eighty percent of the time — something most seniors will enjoy, with you as their rapt audience. While it’s natural to want to do the majority of the talking, the reverse mortgage specialist who is instead focused on the senior prospect, and the important point he or she is making, will likely cinch the deal.

Here are six steps to Socratic selling:

#1 Find out what’s on their mind. Does your prospect want to pay off their existing mortgage? Have more funds available for travel? Help a child or grandchild to buy their first home? Rather than focusing on “problems” or “issues,” use words such as “thoughts,” “viewpoint”, “outlook” and “perspective” to encourage open communication. For instance: “Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, what are your thoughts about financing your later years?”

#2 Ask for more information. Once your prospect has defined the starting point, keep the input flowing with leading questions such as, “Tell me more about your desire to pay off your existing mortgage”, “What else should I know about …” and the most powerful word in selling: “Why?” as in “Why is this important to you?” All of these inquiries make the reverse mortgage prospect think, and provide you with a detailed picture of their situation.

#3 Listen carefully. Give your prospect time to ponder, and to provide a considered response. If you jump in too quickly, you’ll abort the flow of information.

#4 Empathize. If your prospect is lamenting the difficulties of making ends meet right now, you might ask, “How difficult a position does this put you in?” Rephrase what they’ve told you to make certain you have it right.

#5 Clarify. When your prospect asks a question, don’t assume you understand the reason behind it. Instead, ask, “I’m wondering, why do you ask that?” For example: “When you say you think a reverse mortgage is expensive, compared with what? Relocating, or getting a regular home equity line of credit and having to make monthly payments?” Doing so can help you provide accurate information and forestall a misstep.

#6 “Suppose” at the close. When you’re winding down the conversation, asking some “what if” questions can be particularly effective: “If you were to move ahead with reverse mortgage application, when would you like to begin?” This allows your client to imagine the loan process without pressure. Seniors prefer to move at their own pace, which may seem glacial to you, yet comfortable for them.

When your interactions are phrased Socratically, your senior prospects are much more likely to “sell” themselves!


Leave a Comment


  1. Thanks for this quick and useful guide to consultative sales.

  2. Great info!!

  3. Thanks so much, Steve and The_Cynic. Wishing you a productive and prosperous 2013!

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