In this environment where Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media seem to have taken center stage, it’s too easy to forget the personal touch. Clients aren’t going to ask for it, and you’ve probably been too busy to focus on it. So perhaps now is the time. Let’s consider six of the key touch points that routinely occur during a client transaction.
- In the beginning
- As an advisor
- As an advocate
- Put it in writing
- Never say goodbye
1. In the beginning. It doesn’t matter whether the client walks through your office door, comes to you via the Internet, or is referred by a mutual friend. The first touch point is the very first contact. Here’s where you set the tone for the entire relationship. Begin by getting on a first-name basis, if the client is comfortable with that. “Hi, I’m Wanda. What do you like to be called?” Once you’ve established that bond, ask a few open-ended questions that let the client know you’re interested in them as a person. Take notes while you’re talking. Here are some examples:
- Why have you decided to move right now?
- What is the most important thing to you in buying (or selling) your home?
- Tell me about your last experience working with a Realtor.
- What family members or others are going to be involved in your decision?
2. Face-to-face. Chances are you may not always be face-to-face with the client at the very first contact. You should make an effort to get that way as soon as possible. If the client is semi-local, schedule coffee or lunch. If the client is out of the area, use Skype or Facetime for phone calls when you can. Be sure your picture is on your web site, blog, email, and business card. If it’s going to be a long time before you’re physically in the same place, ask for a family picture via email, or “friend” them on Facebook.
3. As an advisor. The clients need to know you know your business. They will happily pay your commission if they feel they are getting the benefit of your knowledge and expertise on a regular basis. You need to prepare and interpret for your clients current market information such as recent sales trends, mortgage rates and future projections. You need to make them feel comfortable sharing income and other financial information with you so you can help them get pre-approved in a buying situation.
4. As an advocate. Being an advocate means you are passionate about getting the best possible deal for your clients in every transaction. The clients need to know you are going to bat for them with buyers, sellers, other Realtors, bankers, appraisers, and anyone else involved in the transaction. Of course this doesn’t mean steamrolling over everyone in your path. Use the Margaret Thatcher approach. She was called “the iron lady.” It is often said of people like Lady Thatcher that they use an iron fist in a velvet glove.
5. Put it in writing. The handwritten note has become the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the social media age. How long has it been since you got a written thank you note from anyone, including your kids? Especially including your kids! I’ve sent wedding and baby gifts to people, who are supposedly grownups (after all, they are marrying and reproducing) that were never even acknowledged. That’s just bad manners, so don’t you fall into the trap. Get some attractive postcards designed and hand-write a “nice to meet you” note after your first conversation or meeting. And of course a “welcome to your new home” note is always a nice touch.
6. Never say goodbye. It’s never over, not even when it’s over. Continue to keep in contact, however briefly, with your clients. You might do this once a year with a birthday card list, an “anniversary of your move” card, or any life event that might trigger congratulations, concern, or sympathy. Your client may stay in the same house for 25 years. But they know other people who don’t, and your name will be top of mind whenever a potential referral pops up.
Occasionally you may encounter a client who wishes to maintain an arms-length relationship. There are a few people who don’t welcome the personal touch, but they are definitely in the minority. You need to honor those feelings when they occur, and develop your intuition so you can sense exactly how much of your personal involvement is appropriate for each client and situation.
You know the old saying (attributed to Teddy Roosevelt): “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Words to live by.