Managing (and Meeting) Client Expectations
“The customer is always right” is something that has been drilled into our heads from the time we are kids. It’s not until we become adults in an industry that is sales driven that we realize the customer can be very wrong, a bit off, and totally off-course. But it is up to those of us who are considered experienced professionals to help guide them on the right track as it pertains to their best interests.
With something as big as a home or a Real Estate property investment, you have got to understand that there will be times you’ll encounter clients who may not know what they want, may not want what you have to offer and may not even know what type of property they need. This is where asking the best questions can play a key role in helping the client come to the conclusion of what best fits their needs and wants.
One of the first things you have to do is build trust by listening. It is important your client knows you feel they are important and heard. It’s not hard to do this. When your client knows that you are listening and that you are showing them respect, you begin to gain their trust.
Listening is something that is vital in a career that requires effective communications and, when it comes to investing in a home or investment property, listening to your client is imperative if you expect them to consider you trustworthy. Make sure you leave enough time to give them the attention they need instead of rushing through as if this is just a sale to you.
One thing I want to stress is that listening and letting a client know you are on their side remains the key in helping your client understand a difficult situation and helps you avoid conflict. This will help you earn their trust when it comes to handling difficult situations. This is the same as the above paragraph.
Don’t be in a hurry.
When I am working with people who are selling their home, I like to start off asking them to show me around the house. I ask them if they are looking for feedback on all things they can do to optimize the sale price. Also, I allow them to pitch to me what they think their best features are and I take notes. I let them know I’m trying to view their property as a buyer and then share feedback from my experience, from the perspective of someone who is in the market for a home. I let them know up front that I want to be brutally honest with them, letting them know that if I see something that goes against the aesthetics they are trying to sell.
We will then discuss a possible remedy or consider that there could be a reduction in the asking sales price for their failure to address the concerns. Oftentimes, there are items that a seller wants to upgrade that has no real value to a buyer. That’s when I usually recommend using the seller’s limited funds in other areas of the home that will be the most beneficial in selling the home.
Set realistic expectations.
Now, this leads us to the next point—setting expectations. These can arise and you may find yourself in the middle of trying to mediate what could be a difficult situation. Here again, communication is vital and you have to explain potential difficult situations early on so that everyone is clear as to the expectations. In presenting potential situations earlier rather than later, realistic expectations are set and sellers have an idea as to where to go from there.
If this is a owner-occupied (or personal) home, remember, your seller may think everyone is going to see it the way they saw it and fall in love with it as much as they did. Sure, you empathize with your client and even agree that it might seem somewhat ridiculous to make such changes, but you also have to remind them that their main goal is to guide them through a successful closing. Sometimes that means taking a small step out of their comfort zone to be attractive to buyers.
It does help to put yourself in your client’s shoes or as close to it as you can imagine. You have to remember they aren’t just trading lunch in the cafeteria here. Properties are serious things and can hold a whole lot of emotional attachment. So, while all that sentimental stuff is obvious, remember that you are not there to share misty water-colored memories of the way things were, but rather you’ve been hired to complete a task and your client needs your expertise, not your emotion. So yes, be empathetic, but also provide sound, professional and solid advice to your client.
In closing, remember as an agent that you need to set realistic expectations. When working with sellers, explain the tools and tracking that you offer and remember to stay in touch with them often. We also use market data to explain things such as the importance of seller-paid closing costs. Or improvements/repairs for FHA or VA to make their home appeal to more pre-approved buyers that have limited down payment resources.
We also make it a point to explain to the seller that their bottom line or net is the most important number for them to consider. It’s easy to get caught in the weeds worrying about the small stuff, but we have to be the ones to let clients know that there are many intricacies to selling Real Estate that can be very confusing and aggravating at times. It’s up to us as professionals to ensure our clients understand that we are looking out for their best interests and we will help them jump through hoops along the way.
Keep in touch.
It’s important to keep in contact with your happy clients. We are fortunate in that most of our clients are happy. Sure, we do encounter the occasional client who may not feel like we met their expectations to the point where they are dissatisfied or unhappy. But those few unsatisfied customers are very few and far between and they are usually hard to forget.
I practice calling past, present and potential clients on a regular basis. Someone may not be in the market but they may have a referral. Someone may be thinking of looking in another area but because you took the time out to make them feel important, they see you as someone who cares. After meeting with clients, I encourage our team to send a personal handwritten card to show that we took time, effort and care instead of being generic with an individual. On that note, thank them for meeting with you and let them know you look forward to working with them or potentially working with them. Be courteous, be kind and leave the door open to assist further.