It’s been a tough few years in the real estate business, and you need every client you can get, right? Maybe not. There are a few situations that should cause you to think twice about accepting a new client. And depending on the reason, there are also ways of turning a client down while preserving your dignity, reputation, and prospects for the future.
So why would you turn a client down?
- Needs and skills are not a match
- Bad vibes or sticky situations
- Ethical conflicts
- Time pressures
Needs and skills are not a match. The client wants new construction but you specialize in rehab. The client wants to live in a condo and you specialize in single family. The client wants to locate in a neighborhood 20 miles away from your target neighborhoods. Perhaps the client was referred to you by a friend or family member, so you feel obligated to give him or her some consideration. This scenario may not have a lot of potential for you. Sure, you could probably do it but if you have to struggle all the way through, and—more important—if it keeps you away from more pleasant or lucrative opportunities, you will regret it.
How to say no. “John, I’m flattered that you think I’m up to the task, but I have to be honest. I don’t think I’m the best match for you and helping you find the home you need. I’d love to introduce you to my colleague, Joe. He’s an expert in that area and would be a better fit for your specific needs.” (You would prep your colleague in advance for the referral, of course.)
Bad vibes and sticky situations. You’re getting alarm bells in the first meeting. It could be anything from a client who either knows it all or knows nothing at all to obvious conflicts or disagreements between the clients themselves. Every Realtor has their share of difficult clients of course, and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to put up with. You have to weigh the amount of stress involved vs. the amount of income you could earn and make a realistic choice.
How to say no. This is a tough one. You don’t want to saddle a colleague in your firm with a flake or a potential marital blowup! The most tactful approach would probably be to suggest that your dance card is relatively full and that the client may want to interview several other Realtors before making a decision. This puts the ball back in their court and who knows—they may find a perfect match somewhere else.
Time pressures. You’re busy, and as the market continues to pick up, you will be even busier. Maybe you have additional personal or family commitments that take some of your time as well. If you sense that a client is going to need 24/7 attention, you may want to take a pass.
How to say no. “You know, Jill, I’d love to work with you but I currently have some family and other time commitments that would make it impossible for me to devote the time you need to do justice to your situation. Let me put you in touch with John. He’s a great guy but he’s new with our firm and still building his client list. I think he can help you with a lot of the research and leg work, and I can still be involved when you down to decision time, if you need me.”
Ethical conflicts. If a client suggests anything remotely questionable, such as fudging on an appraisal, a home inspection, or a mortgage application—run, don’t walk to the nearest door. In this situation, you don’t want to even think about referring the client to another Realtor. There’s no strategy involved or ways to let them down easy. A simple “No, thank you” is sufficient.
What if a client asks you to lower a commission? Some firms may be OK with this and some are not. Know your company’s policies and if the client is asking for something you know you can’t do, suggest that they may want to take it up with your general manager or principal broker.
You alone are the best judge of the kinds of clients and situations where you can do your best work. Of course you’ll run into roadblocks and difficult situations occasionally. But you can avoid many of these by learning to say “No” firmly, graciously and with a smile on your face.