Have you ever been to marriage counselling? I’m not going to air any awkward dirty laundry - it’s far too dreary. But the thing that astonished me back at the time was summed up in this one key lesson; if you feel that communication is poor, try listening rather than talking.
Now those of you who know me will understand the idea of being told I should actually shut up was both alien and confronting. Obviously, I completely ignored this advice. I mean the counsellor just didn’t understand. Just like my husband didn’t understand the value of what I was trying to explain. And to ensure they did, I kept talking and filling the void with words.
It got really boring really quickly. In the end, even I tuned out – and shut up. (We’re still together BTW. The man deserves a medal.)
Stop talking, start listening
This lesson about communication has come back to me several times over the past months during conversations I’ve had with real estate agents. Or perhaps that should be conversations that agents have had with me.
As an enthusiastic open for inspection attendee in my area, and enjoyer of the spectacle of a good auction, I’m on a few call lists for agents. I always find them fascinating, sadly because they too often go like this one:
“Hi Kylie, it’s John here from (Insert Name) Real Estate here and I was ringing to see if there were any real estate needs I could help you with?”
I thanked John for his call and said nope, we had no intentions of selling because we love the area, and are happily ensconced. But I’m always interested in hearing what the market is doing... He ignored this open opportunity to share something I would genuinely find useful and asked if I knew he was selling a home around the corner from me? In fact, he’d sold several properties in that street over the past few months, so maybe I’d like to come along to the open on Saturday?
It's not about you
And then he kept talking, describing the property in detail.
And I tuned out. Because it was abundantly clear that this conversation was not in any way about “my” real estate needs. They were about John’s. I was a name and number on his call list. He figured if he made enough calls, maybe the maths would work in his favour.
John’s call followed an earlier conversation I had with an enthusiastic young agent from one of Sydney’s best agencies. He explained to me how excited he was about their new strategy to extract more value out of their CRM by setting up call plans for each of their clients.
Call strategies are great but...
They now have calendar dates to follow up everyone in their CRM on key anniversaries and set times after they had transacted.
That sounded great, I said, so tell me what’s the content of that conversation? What questions do you ask? What do you talk to them about when you call?
And he proceeded to outline a call strategy scarily similar to John’s. Now, instead of the occasional phone call from an agent asking if you’d like to sell your home, past clients of this agency can expect that call regularly on key anniversaries. As a client, isn’t that something to look forward to??!!
God give me strength.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favour of staying in touch, a good call list strategy and the power of CRM management to grow and build relationships in real estate and this young guys enthusiasm was truly infectious.
But neither of these examples could be considered ‘good’. Because neither put themselves in the shoes of their clients and considered what they would find valuable and interesting.
Share information that is valuable and interesting
The question “can I help you with your real estate needs?” really means “listen to the things I want to tell you”. This is not helpful or genuine. As a result, it damages rather than builds trust. A call strategy that rigorously imposes these kinds of conversations upon past clients at regular intervals is destined to destroy any last vestige of a relationship in record time. That's because at the centre of the conversation is your perspective as an agent, rather than the perspective of your client.
So what should you do instead?
First of all, put yourself in the position of your client. If someone was calling you like this, would you see value in the communication? Ask open questions that genuinely invite engagement.
If John had led our chat by saying that he’d sold a few houses nearby and was I interested in hearing about the prices they’d achieved, he’d have been greeted with a ‘hell yes!’. He could have followed up with a recent sales report, or suburb report on email. Or he could have dropped around to my place and built the relationship further. But John burnt his bridge because our conversation confirmed he was a bit of a tool.
With agencies now conducting a CRM touchpoint strategy, there need to be more options in the arsenal of connection than just an annoying cold call list.
Look for options to share information
Agents have access to suburb reports, lists of recent sales (and for the love of all that is holy, including the sale price!) and video options you can use as discussion points, and/or offers to send through to follow up.
Think about what your potential client might want to know or learn about? Think about where they live now and what their next property step might be. What information could you offer to genuinely help them?
Consider the reason why you’re making the call in the first place. It’s NOT to tick a name off a list. It’s to try to build a relationship.
Get off the hamster wheel
Working the numbers works two ways. If you want to make poor quality calls, you’ll need to make many more of them. Have fun on that hamster wheel.
But if you’re prepared to listen and put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients, you'll be able to get better results from fewer calls of a higher quality. People will see genuine value in talking to you.