As I was thinking about this week's Zebra Report I posed a question to myself: Is real estate still a belly-to-belly business?
That's what we used to call it in the old days. Back then we didn't have email, we didn't have online MLS systems, we didn't have electronic key boxes, and we didn't have cell phones (let alone today's smart phones).
Being belly-to-belly (or face-to-face) with your clients forced agents to be good at things that were critical in building client connections. You had to be able to develop rapport, you had to be a good listener, and you had to learn to pick up on the cues your clients gave you.
In today's world, what passes for a "connection" is pretty different. You may be connected to hundreds - or thousands - of people on Facebook or Twitter who you've never met.
Is that a connection?
I don't think so. If you strip away all the peripherals - the smart phones, the software, the social media - what are you left with? If you're lucky, and strategic, you're left with honest-to-goodness relationships with people. And it's people who keep you in business.
The more we've relied on technology, the further we've gotten away from human connections. If we deliver our news, both good and bad, via email or text rather than live or on the phone, we're missing valuable opportunities to connect with our clients. I know all the reasons you'll tell me you take that route... not enough time, "my clients prefer that", "it's easier for me if I'm working with a lot of people" - and I hear you. I just don't agree.
How much better could your life (and your business) be if you took the time to really connect?
Eight Tips to Help You Connect
- Ask questions. You don't have to interrogate clients under klieg lights, but rather than present them with a big sales pitch how about simply opening up the lines of communication by asking questions that help you get to know them better?
- Remember it's not all about you. Your clients don't care if you received the President's Award six years in a row or if you are the top agent in the office. You might think they do, but that's just a lie you tell yourself to feel important. Instead of bragging about the titles you receive, try talking about how your skills have helpedpast clients.
- Talk about yourself. I know, I just told you not to brag about your awards. However, if you want to connect, you need to share something about yourself in the normal course of discussion. That might be that you breed West Highland Terriers or that you coach your daughter's Little League team. Personalizing the face of your real estate business can help a client feel more comfortable, and will help build rapport.
- Build in time for live meetings. I'm not saying you have to give up your cell phone, just be sure to occasionally meet with your clients live. That's equally importantwhether you're delivering good news or bad news. I'm not talking about random "pop-bys" where you're interrupting your clients at home or at the office. Offer short live meetings, and be sure they're at your client's convenience - not yours.
- Pretend your business is a corner store. Don't you love the feeling you get when you walk in to a store and the owner remembers your name, or something about your family? Sometimes we're so worried about appearing "professional" that we come across as unapproachable. Getting to know your clients on a personal level - and then acknowledging what you've learned - can pay off in spades.
- Selling is like dating. Don't be a player. You don't ask someone to marry you on the first date. So don't be "closing" clients the minute you meet them. Give freely. Share information without expectation. It will come back you!
- Use the "two-two-one" rule. There's a reason you have two eyes and two ears, and just one mouth. Keep that in mind when building relationships, and use those gifts in the same proportion they were given to you.
- Cultivate patience - loads of it. You've probably heard the story about how employees are trained at Disneyland. The number one question asked by visitors: "Where is the nearest bathroom?" Imagine working in an environment where you are probably asked the same question a thousand times a day, hundreds of times a year. Disneyland employees receive special training that helps them to respond to repetitive questions as though it was the very first time they'd been asked. Of course youunderstand the timelines and complexities of real estate transactions - it's your job, after all. But for the average buyer or seller who moves every five to seven years, things aren't so obvious. After all, you probably couldn't enter your client's world and understand what they do, could you? Be sure to be as patient with your client as they would need to be with you if the shoe was on the other foot.
There's no doubt that your personal and business lives will be richer when you learn to connect, rather than relying strictly on technology to build "relationships". Give it a try, and see if you don't have results!
How are you making connections? Do you have something special that works for you? Let me know - I'd love to hear!
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry. With expertise in strategic marketing, business analysis, branding, new home project planning, product development, and agent/broker training, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things "real estate". With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.