The challenge for most real estate professionals is that they have the best of intentions when making promises to the prospects and clients they normally care a lot about. It's not their intent, but their follow through that is often lacking. When actions don't back up promises to prospects and clients, hard-to-earn and hard-to-replace credibility, trust, and income are lost.
Surveys tell us the most consistent complain against real estate professionals is that they say they'll do a lot when they first list a home or take on a new buyer, and then don't follow up or follow through. This means standing out in the crowd doesn't necessarily require anything fancy or flashy, just plain old consideration and reliability.
"In the minds of over-stressed buyers and sellers, every time you say or email that you'll do something, you just made a promise." When you promise to do more than you deliver on - whether that's failing to return phone calls, email information, or search out new listings or buyers - you let down those from whom you need to earn trust. You prove yourself to be inconsiderate and unreliable - two impressions that are difficult to reverse. Why earn those labels from clients when it was never your intention to do anything but prove how essential you are to their real estate success?
Your interest in providing outstanding client service and your commitment to goal achievement for individual clients are not enough to guarantee you'll follow through with everything that buyers and sellers want and need from you. The best of intentions do not qualify as customer service nor do they add to a positive customer experience. It's actions that count. What professionals actually deliver on and which promises are broken is what prospects and clients remember when they are deciding who to commit to and who to refer.
In my previous column, Part 1: "When Agents Don't FOLLOW UP Everybody Loses", we explored how expensive failure to follow through can be, and how to motivate yourself to consistently follow up with prospects and clients. This practical approach enables you to keep the interests of prospects and clients ahead of immediate demands on your time and energy, because you always know the consequences.
Three Decision-Making Flaws At Fault
Knowledge of "how to follow up" is rarely the problem. You understand how to return a phone call or email. You're aware of the details and support essential to buyers and sellers. You know how to market a listing and match listings to potential buyers. When you don't follow through with these and other tasks involved in a real estate transaction, it's usually because three significant decision-making flaws undermine your best intentions. This, in turn, erodes the trust you've worked hard to earn from prospects and clients.
1. Commitment Timing
Your commitment to do what you say you'll do must exist in your mind when you first make the commitment. Failure to follow up occurs when professionals do not mentally commit to completing the promised task at the time they are saying, texting, or emailing the promise. Later, adding the promise to a "To Do" list may not give it the priority the promise deserves. Many times a promise is forgotten or deferred until not following up becomes a bigger negative issue than the original task was a positive one.
Commit to following through with promises as an essential part of your definition of excellent client service. From first contact with the prospect or client, explain that this commitment is part of your definition of considerate, reliable service. Promise yourself you won't say you'll do anything unless you immediately enter the task and its completion date into your calendar ( or whatever you use to manage time ). That way, if conflicts exist, you can adjust the task or the timing right then and there. Everyone has particularly busy periods, so that is no excuse for a true professional. Plan ahead and take on administrative support or refer prospects you realize you cannot give full attention to.
2. Priority Setting
When you know how much an abandoned prospect or client will cost you, now and in the future, you know what is at stake when you commit to a task. Excellent client service revolves around clarifying client goals and ensuring that what matters to them is added to your priorities. This double clarity enables you to balance demands on your time and energy with other goal-achievement commitments, as well as with any misguided priorities and time wasters that pop onto your phone screen and into your life. When you have pressing priorities, do not promise to take on a lower-priority task for the prospect or client. Instead, be prepared with alternatives for times like these, for instance:
- Have common tasks and requests, like arranging for a new furnace, appliances, or financing detailed on your website, so clients can start the research with your phone-friendly template or ap, and then connect with you later for final clarification.
- Don't say volunteer help. Politely and candidly explain how delay will affect them. Ask them whether they would prefer working with your assistant, talking to your colleague who has agreed to fill in, or waiting the hours or days until you are available?
3. Follow-Up Strategizing From The Start
Lead and referral generation take many forms in real estate, but in all formats and situations, the goal is more business - that is, more demands on your time and resources. Launching a significant marketing campaign in peak season may overload your capacity to follow up and consistently follow through with new business while servicing your existing client base. That's where strategizing comes in, for example:
- Stagger lead generation projects, so there is time to convert most if not all new prospects to client status before the next wave of leads arrive.
- Schedule lead generation to build business activity in otherwise "quite" times. What would your target market respond to in the months before peak real estate "season?" In many markets buying and selling real estate has expanded into year-round activity, but too many professionals still follow traditional sales patterns.
- Create content for at least seven follow through contacts with prospects. Think of this as starting a one-sided, relevant conversation which prospects can't resist joining in on.
- Work with partners, a team, or an assistant to provide immediate 24/7 responses and follow up. Technology makes shared prospecting campaigns practical and cost effective.
Trust is hard to earn and harder to keep unless you consistently demonstrate you care about prospects and clients and their goals by doing what you said you'd do, when you promised.