I had lunch with a friend last week. She and her husband are in the process of selling their home and buying another. They’re using the same real estate agent they’ve used for two other transactions in the past, and have been loyal to her. She’s done a great job and looked out for their best interests. But things have seemingly changed and they are displeased. The home they’re selling has received an offer of nearly $1.5 million. They’ve placed an offer of $2.25 million on the home they’re hoping to purchase. There is significant commission involved, and their agent doesn’t realize how close she is to losing these clients, not to mention their referral network. This got me thinking about how important it is (in any business, really) to know your customer. As a real estate professional, when relationships are critical to success, it’s even more important.
While the vast majority of homebuyers today use the internet for their search, NAR tells us that 90% of those who used the internet for their search still went on to purchase a home through an agent. “In fact, buyers who used the internet were more likely than those who did not use the internet to purchase their home through an agent,” says NAR’s most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report.
The most successful real estate professionals are “people” people. Even in the modern world, where more and more of the real estate transaction takes place online, the business itself is conducted by real people, in often intense and stressful situations. And when it involves money, personal finances and the dream of homeownership, the intensity increases. A home is often a family’s biggest life purchase. Agents and brokers who can temper than intensity and really read their clients will build strong and lasting, lucrative relationships. In my friends’ case, they’ve been left feeling like their longtime agent is neglecting their best interests because she is too focused on closing the sale at all costs. In other words, she sees the carrot of commission dangling just within reach and has lost the ability to see further beyond that. It will cost her in the long run. After all, even in this online world, 54% of homebuyers find their real estate agent through a referral or as a repeat client, according to NAR.
Most real estate professionals will tout their trust worthiness. But can you back yours up? Do you know what keeps your home buyer clients up at night? Do you understand their motivations, hesitations and fears? If you do, you are steps ahead already. It takes sitting back and understanding that the experience is not about you, even though you make be doing all the hard work. It isn’t glamorous, but the results are worth it.
How can you do this? Start by paying attention – not just to what your customers are saying, but to their tone, inflection, body language and facial expressions. Pay attention to the little details. Ask questions, probe gently; get on the same page. Keep it personal and prompt, as much as possible. Remember things can come off harsher in text, so keep any potentially upsetting news to a phone call or face-to-face. Be responsive and professional, but keep an air of friendliness. You clients want and need to know that you “have their back”, so to speak. Lastly, follow up. Don’t keep your nose so close to the fence that you miss what’s happening around you and lose the chain of referral and repeat business.
Really get to know your customer, and you’ll likely get to know them again, as well as some of their friends, family or colleagues.