By Todd Waller
Me: Hey, Kristin! What’s happening today? Do you and Brian have any questions about the listing docs I sent you for review?
Kristin: (laughing) Geez, Todd! That’s impressive, answering the phone by addressing me by name.
Me: Really? It’s an old habit of mine.
Me: Yeah! Any time I talk with a client or customer on the phone, I capture their number and add their name to my contact list. That way, when my peeps call, I know who I’m talking with and likely what they want to talk about.
Kristin: That is really impressive! That makes me feel even more important and comfortable working with you. Nice touch.
Me: Thanks! Now, how’s the house coming along?
This recent exchange with a client got me thinking about the little things we do as agents and how they translate into unspoken messages to our clients and consumers. I worked with Kristin a few years ago, helping her out-of-country brother purchase a home in Michigan. So, of course, I captured her and her family’s contact information. Beyond that, I’ve found that responding to my clients using the same method of communication they used to reach out to me is very important. It may be subtle, but it shows my clients that I’m paying attention and willing to do things their way. How else can you use this concept of “the little things” to win clients? Let’s count the ways …
1. Be the Un-Agent
Around some circles in Southeast Michigan, I’ve earned the nickname, “the un-agent.” What does this mean and is it a bad thing? Well, it’s definitely a good thing and is actually an endearment that points out one of ways I’m unique as a real estate agent. In essence, my friends are stating that I set myself apart from my real estate brethren by doing things differently. Hence the “un.”
Isn’t that an intriguing position to be in? Part of a pretty powerful association yet different enough that folks who know me well enough would rather refer to me as not a part of that body at all. I’m flattered, truthfully, but I don’t really think there’s that large a gap as my friends may think between what I do and what the typical agent does. I’ve just shifted my focus.
You see, I believe the biggest differentiator within a real estate business is an agent’s focus. Is their business driven primarily by their need to get rich? Or, is their business primarily driven by a desire to meet and exceed the expectations and needs of their clients? This is not to disparage the real estate business model that is driven by volume. I have witnessed a few agents in my marketplace adopt this as their model and they are wildly successful. Their repeat and referral business numbers as a percentage of total business are lower, but they make up for that with sheer volume. As an “un”-agent, my own practice has focused on providing my clients with the desired results and excellent experience.
In the course of our business helping folks buy and sell real estate, we create a consumer experience. Knowingly or not, how we interact with our customers and clients shapes that experience. Those interactions drive an impression that consumers use to help make their home buying or selling decisions. How fascinating to reflect that a simple act of capturing someone’s name and contact information could shape a person’s financial future as impacted by their real estate experience!
2. Catch the Rebound
In a recent video on REthink Report, Mark Brace talks about the importance of being the first agent. He gives great advice to which I’d like to add: If, you somehow weren’t the first to reach a client, don’t give up! There’s still a chance to be the rebound. As the rebound agent, the little things become even more important.
Often, as the rebound agent, I hear or learn about how small things said or done added up to a mountain of discontent. Let’s face it, as consumers, we will put up with a level of dissatisfaction before we switch brands. Some of us have a shorter fuse but often we give service providers a second, sometimes third and fourth chance before we throw our hands in the air and walk away.
Did you know that as an agent, consumers are very cognizant of your commission check? Especially sellers. If you are working with buyers, and consistently show them homes over their price ceiling, they notice. Anecdotally, I have heard buyers complain that even when they attempted to address this practice with their prior agent, the agent would give no reason, beneficial to the buyer, as to why they were seeing homes in a higher price point.
Now, as a buyer’s agent, we have all been in this spot. The buyers have tastes that exceed their budgets. Yet, when searching the multiple listing service for listings that match their criteria, there are very few, or no properties, that match what they can afford and want. When this happens to me, I’ve found that clear, concise communication goes a very long way. Instead of blindly raising their price ceiling $25,000 to $50,000 I ask permission to do so first, with an explanation of why I am even asking permission. If my clients say no, then we have a conversation about the scarcity of listings matching their criteria and what to expect moving forward.
3. Stick the Landing
Back to my client, Kristin.
Working with her and her dad to help her brother find a home, my aim was to keep the lines of communication wide open. This meant an awkward phone call or two at odd hours. It meant thinking outside the box on giving the brother a virtual presence inside the homes his family thought the best for him (I received permission from the listing agents to video record their home and send private links to my buyer for viewing). It meant staying on top of a bunch of details that were very important to the buyer, but given the separation of distance, he could not keep up with in a timely fashion.
Up front, Kristin and her dad acknowledged that this was an interesting and different transaction. They were curious how things would proceed and come together for their brother and son. For my part, I simply communicated that, yes, this will be different, but that I was confident we could work as a team to bring the brother home to a great house.
And to think, the whole family was referred to me by someone that I’ve never worked with, but heard glowing reviews about my service from their close friends. It’s doing the little things, and doing them well.
TODD WALLER is a REALTOR® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Snyder & Company, REALTORS® in Ann Arbor, MI. Visit his website, www.toddwaller.com and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.