Sales is an integral part of real estate, but it isn’t everything. Given the nature of the business though, it can be tempting to spend too much time focusing only on the numbers game, while neglecting the most crucial part of the process: relationship building and customer service. No matter the industry, the true sales "rock stars" know this and invest countless time investing in people and tending to the lead-nurturing garden. Because people like to do business with people they know and like, a business card is only worth the cost of ink and paper without a foundation upon which to build.
With that in mind, here are some tips for the real estate agents looking for a leg up on nurturing those leads and building relationships with people who turn into long-term clients and referral sources.
It takes a lot of skill and talent to consistently land strong clients, but every new account starts somewhere: with a first connection. You can't start a deal if the only names that anyone can call to mind are those of your competitors. Now, if you are going through a tough streak or need some fresh perspective on building your client base, understand that resources to build connections are all around you.
Start with your local Chamber of Commerce or area economic development office. When considering the ease that such organizations offer to members with low-pressure relationship building, you can see the potential value at-hand.
Beyond those avenues, investigate area networking and business-interest groups. According to Money Crashers, membership in closed business groups provides another effective and affordable way to meet people and begin nurturing relationships. Even if no one in the group is actively looking to buy or sell right now, word of mouth travels fast and people like to recommend professionals they know personally.
Lastly, don't hesitate to introduce yourself at clearinghouses for community information. Churches, gyms, doctors’ offices, hardware stores and other organizations and businesses people share information can be an excellent source for low-pressure and minimal-investment contact building. Get creative when exploring the options at hand in your own city, as opportunities for networking are all around.
Ask Meaningful Questions
Take a genuine interest in your contacts and clients. Spend less time talking, and instead focus on asking more thoughtful questions. You may have heard of the “Ford Method,” which encourages asking open-ended questions about a client's most valued personal bullet points: Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams. You'd be surprised at how quickly someone can open up when they start talking about their youngest daughter going to junior prom, or the next marathon they are training for. That openness lends itself to familiarity, affection and trust, building an effortless bond between you and your clients.
Communicate Similarity and Shared Values
People like to spend time with people they can relate to. Familiarity and a shared sense of values or purpose is the easiest way to establish trust in any relationship, whether personal or professional. Find a way to communicate with your clients that you understand their needs at a deep and genuine level. If you're struggling with areas where you can cultivate a sense of shared commonality, don't be afraid to backtrack and ask more open-ended questions about why they are looking for a new space to call their own. Pay close attention to what they say and take mental notes of it. And sometimes, the words a client aren’t saying are just as valuable as the ones they are.
Build Trust and A Sense of Expertise
This may sound like a no-brainer, but trust is built by actions, not words. When you give a client a timeframe, be sure to stick to that deadline. If you miss a call or email from your client, reach out to them at your next opportunity. Keep communication clear, open and honest. If you are failing on any one of these marks individually or collectively, the only thing you'll be succeeding in is undermining your own credibility. Actively engaging with your clients and honoring your commitments communicates that their needs and time are important and taken seriously
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Another no-brainer, right? It’s imperative to stay on top of this. Even if there's nothing to report to your clients, the simple act of connecting with them shows that you care about their needs. For example, when making a big purchase, it's not uncommon for the buyers to feel overwhelmed with questions. You may need to break the ice with a quick and easy “just checking in” email or phone call. With so many different variables, it's easy for a client to feel paralyzed by stress and uncertainty.
Beyond that most obvious objective, keeping your clients in the loop is excellent customer service. Again, this shows you are open and available to address their needs. It’s easy to talk about customer service but more challenging to constantly put into practice.
Keep in Touch with Connections
Outside of your direct clients, keep in touch with your connections. Staying in touch with leads and others who may know or turn into ones is important for gaining repeat and referral business. In fact, according to The Real Estate Trainer, nearly 40 of home sellers found their real estate agent from a friend, neighbor, or relative. More than 20 percent used the same agent they had used in the past. That's a whopping 60 percent of home sellers who selected an agent based on their personal connection to the agent or an associate’s personal connection.
Ensure your efforts get attention. Consider sending a client a handwritten birthday card instead of a generic email. Deliver a box of donuts or some coffee to a client's office on a random occasion that doesn't demand any special celebration. Those little unique touches will make sure that you stand out for all the right reasons.
Building and nurturing your network seems like
an intimidating process. Don't try to rush in and tackle everything at once.
Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game, and it's not a race to see who
can get the best leads in the shortest time. Relationship building of any sorts
is a marathon -- focus on incremental steps instead of giant leaps and you'll
be setting yourself up for a rewarding and sustainable future.
About the author:
Kathleen Kuhn is President and CEO of HouseMaster, the original home inspection franchise. She oversees an organization with more than 315 franchise locations across the U.S. and Canada. HouseMaster has an average net promoter score (NPS) of 92, a near-perfect customer service mark that puts it ahead of the NPS of some of the most customer-centric organizations like Ritz-Carlton and Apple.