Just for fun, take a quick run through your contact database. How many people there are repeat clients? How many buyers have you turned in to sellers and vice versa? How many clients have referred you to friends and family who became clients?
Having clients who return to you year after year is a huge bonus. Not only does it enhance your reputation in your profession, it saves you a ton of time because you’re not out beating the bushes (“farming” in Realtor-speak) and stressing out over where your next sale is coming from. But how do you reach this nirvana? Here are seven steps that will take you there.
- Expect to meet winners. Treat every client who walks through your door (or lands in your inbox) as a potential lifer. Don’t judge, don’t evaluate, and don’t wait for people to prove they are worth your time and attention before you start to build a relationship. A new client shouldn’t have to earn his right to deserve your Class A treatment.
- Deliver the goods. If you expect to build client loyalty, you need to deliver on your promises. This means small things, like showing up on time for appointments, and bigger things like knowing where to refer clients who need to repair bad credit or get asbestos remediation.
- Anticipate trouble. You need to anticipate potential pitfalls in every deal and help your clients avoid them. If a property has a shady history or a cloudy title, get the details and advise your client accordingly. If you pick up negative vibes on the part of the other party or the other party’s Realtor, find out why and fix the problem if you can.
- Go the extra miles. That’s miles, by the way—plural. You need to give yourself to every client, every deal, without thinking about what you might get in return. Because it might be nothing, at least in the present. Exceed client expectations on a regular basis. This means going out of your way to get new people connected in the community. Don’t just tell the new mom about the local PTA. Take her to a meeting and introduce her to the president. Stay up to date on current trends and regulations so you can advise your clients appropriately. Know when interest rates have changed and know which loan program or lender is the best fit for each client. No, you may not be rewarded immediately for such attention and caring. But you will be rewarded. Even the Bible will tell you to “Cast your bread upon the waters and you will find it after many days.” Or weeks. Or months. But you will find it—that’s a promise!
- Make it a team effort. Not only do you have to be committed to this way of doing business—your entire team needs to be enrolled in the process. This means everyone from the person who answers your phone to your advertising person, your webmaster, your videographer, your business partner—all of them have to have a passion for excellence, a commitment to serving the client, and they have to demonstrate it daily. Get together with your team frequently. Talk about specific clients. Use their inside information to surface problems and solve them before they get out of hand. Ask them what kind of support they need to provide the A-level service you’re looking for.
- Be full of surprises. In order to succeed, you need to be 100% engaged with your clients before, during, and after the sale. Firms that deliver a solid client experience are the ones that will have clients who return, deal after deal, and bring their friends with them. Value-added services increase the probability that your clients will come back to you and will refer your services to friends and family. What does value-added look like? It’s however you choose to use your creativity to design memorable experiences for your clients and their families. It can be as simple as an orchid brought or delivered to the house on moving day. It can be as much fun as hiring a limo to take a bunch of new kids on the block around town to show them their new schools, followed by a stop and the local ice cream parlor or teen hangout. Your intuition will tell you what you need and when to do it.
- “You gotta know when to hold ‘em.” And know when to fold ‘em too. Not everyone should be a lifelong client. Face it, some people can be more trouble than they are worth in terms of time and stress and general ROI. Hang on to the good ones, nurture them carefully, give thanks for them (and to them) regularly. When you find one that isn’t, smile sweetly and refer them to another firm.
Use these seven steps to create a client retention plan that will build a solid base of repeat business. Then a few months or a year from now, review that client database again, and you’ll find a high percentage of repeat business, referrals, and a long list of people you really enjoy doing business with.