If you don't plan for it, after-the-sale service won't happen. You'll get so consumed with the next deal and with the task of earning the next commission check that you'll overlook the opportunity to create long-term revenue through your past clients.
An after-the-sale service program is like most things in life: people get derailed before they take the first step, and if they don't take the first step - the step that involves establishing the program you commit to follow - they can't begin to meet the objective.
Use the following to guide you as you create your plan. It helps you define exactly what you need to do in the first 30 days after the sale and on an ongoing basis thereafter.
Laying the groundwork during the transaction period
When working a real estate transaction, you have two prime opportunities to develop interpersonal connections and high-grade referrals. One is during the transaction period when you're working with your client to buy or sell a home and close the deal. The second is during the 30 to 45 days that follow the closing.
If you do a poor job during the transaction, you'll be hard pressed to recover lost ground after the closing. An attorney who blows a case doesn't get a second chance from the client, and the same holds true for real estate agents. Your service during the transaction must be stellar, or you'll sacrifice the chance for repeat and referral business, which is the easiest and least costly business to acquire. If that isn't bad enough, you'll also lose the opportunity to collect client testimonials and generate positive word-of-mouth.
During the transaction period, you're in frequent contact with your clients and have ample opportunities to provide excellent service; make a strong, positive impression; and develop the basis for a long-term relationship by following these steps:
When you first begin to work with clients to buy or sell a home, their enthusiasm is high. They fully anticipate and expect that they will be able to find the perfect home and that you are the ideal agent to accomplish the task. During this initial period, your clients think about little other than their real estate hopes. Your presence becomes woven into the fabrics of their lives and their conversations with friends and family members. This is an ideal time to ask for and win referrals.
If the sale or purchase process drags on, expect your clients' level of excitement and energy to ebb. At the same time, expect their focus on their purchase or sale to intensify. The most important thing you can do during this potentially dangerous time - when your clients are experiencing concern and talking non-stop about their real estate issues with others - is to stay in frequent communication; offer solutions; provide calm, professional advice; and retain the clients' confidence in you and your abilities.
Setting a service agenda for the first 30 days after the sale
If you did everything right during the transaction, then your clients were totally satisfied with your service when the deal closed. Now you have a decision to make: Do you wish your clients well and walk away, or do you begin an after-the-sale service program that turns them into clients for life? You already know the answer: You begin to turn them into clients for life.
1. Begin by personally calling your clients at least four times in the 30 days after the closing.
Call in the first few days after the closing to thank them for the opportunity to serve them. Tell them how excited you are for them to be moving into their new home. Share an anecdote about working with them that will make you all laugh and touch their hearts.
After the call, send a hand-written thank you note further expressing your thanks and asking for future business or referrals.
By the end of the first week, call again. Once again, express thanks for trusting you. Then ask: How did the move go? Did anything get broken? How do the kids like their new rooms? Have they met any of the neighborhood kids yet? Did the seller leave the home properly? Is there anything that wasn't right that they need any help with?
This last question can open a Pandora's box of issues, and that's exactly why to ask it. If there are problems you don't know about, you may be blamed for the mishaps without any opportunity to do anything about them. Most will be issues between the seller and the buyer, and power over the seller - unless legal action is involved – is gone because the transaction has now closed. Sometimes all you can do is provide a listening ear and sympathetic voice. Other times you can make a few phone calls to help right the wrong. The fact that you are willing to listen and to see what you can do speaks louder than any demonstrable action. It shows that you care.
At the conclusion of the second call, send another hand-written note. Express concern for the unresolved issue and again thank them for their trust and for taking time to talk with you today.
Call again at the two-week mark. Ask how they are doing getting out of boxes and settling into their new home. Update them if you've made progress on the issue that was concerning them. Ask them about the kids and their transition. Before hanging up, ask if your service is needed. Also, ask them for referrals.
On their 30-day anniversary in the home, call again. Congratulate them on their great decision in selecting this home. Check on the kids and their progress settling in to the house and neighborhood. Thank them again for the honor to serve them.
Simple as this approach sounds, it will enable you to lock your clients in for life, plus it will open the door to referral business that flows freely.
2. While you're at it, call the other party involved in your real estate transaction as well.
Every real estate deal involves a buyer and a seller. In most cases, you represent only one of the two parties, but why not call and offer after-sale service to both? Do you think the other agent is doing this? For your answer, you only have to look at the National Association of REALTORS' finding that only 13% of 2004 real estate clients used an agent they had used previously to represent their interests. My estimation is that fewer than 10% of agents actually call their clients after closing.
When calling to follow up with the party represented by the other agent in your transaction, be ready for a response of surprise and great appreciation. The fact that you are calling four times in a month, while the agent who got paid to represent their interest hasn't called even once, will positively awe most people. By the end of your 30-day after-sale service period, the names of the other agent's clients will be in your database, and you'll be the one receiving their referrals.
3. Deliver or send a gift to your client.
This gift is usually called a closing gift, but even if you attend the closing, don't take the gift with you for two reasons:
At the closing, your clients will be focused on the transaction and thinking about their impending move and all the challenges that lie in front of them. Your gift will be lost in the shuffle.
The papers presented at the closing put the amount of the real estate commission in writing, causing your clients to focus on exactly how much money you made from the transaction. If you give your gift at the same time, they could make a negative comparison between the value of the gift and the money you received.
In choosing your gift, don't go overboard. Save any over-the-top gestures you might want to extend until after your clients have settled in and after your commission has long-since been paid. The more you deliver after you get paid, the more your gift communicates that you care about your clients, not your commission check.
Find a closing gift that reminds clients of you and your service. Give them something that can be used rather than consumed. A great bottle of wine or gift basket quickly disappears. A customized mailbox, door knocker, or yard plant will last almost forever.
By taking or delivering your gift to your clients' new home, you'll put it in their hands at a time when it can create the most significant feelings of good will, warmth, and referrals. If you want to give them something at closing, hand them a thank you note.
Another nice gesture is to help your clients notify their friends of their move. Offer to create a postcard with a picture of their new home on the front and to print up a couple hundred for their use. Then offer to mail them out on your clients' behalf. You'll save them the cost and enlarge your database to boot.
You might even call people on the list to make sure they received the card you sent for your client. You could then ask them if they are committed to another Agent. If not, then you've opened the door to a new client relationship.