By Joseph Rand
I have worked with a lot of real estate agents over the past fifteen years, and what’s always surprising is that you can never predict who is going to be successful. The agent in the introductory training class who asks great questions, who looks the part of a successful professional, who seems eager and industrious, flames out and leaves the business in six months. You go to an awards ceremony, and you watch a parade of highly successful agents walk on stage, and you realize that at first glance they have very little in common: they don’t look the same, they don’t talk the same, they don’t build their businesses in the same way.
What they have in common is simple: they’re really good at their jobs. Simply put, they are extremely competent. They know their stuff. They work hard. Most importantly, their clients love them. And that’s the common denominator. Really great agents, the ones who are most successful, are simply capable. They’re skilled at what they do, they know the business, and they thereby provide a great experience for their clients. Because that’s their orientation — the client.
Unfortunately, traditional real estate sales education is not oriented to the client, but to the “prospect,” and how to turn that prospect into a client. But that training gives virtually no attention to what you do for that prospect after she becomes a client. Instead, traditional training is about the art of the sale, teaching agents techniques and tricks to make appointments through an exhausting and ultimately unsustainable campaign of calling prospects you don’t know and manipulating them into setting appointments. Maybe there was a time when those methods worked, but in the modern information age people are just too savvy and skeptical to fall for a superficial sales pitch that derives from sales systems created in the 1920s to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Moreover, even if those techniques did work, my experience is that agents just don’t like doing those types of things, and quickly stop doing them.
More importantly, superficial sales slickness is an unsustainable way to build your business when the clients you trick into working with you have a bad service experience. If you spend all your time oriented toward trying to generate new prospects, that’s time that you’re not spending taking care of the clients you already have. Maybe you’ll be successful in manipulating a prospect into becoming a client, but if you don’t provide great service to that client, two things will happen. First, you’re less likely to actually help that client through a transaction, since finding someone a home or properly marketing a home is a difficult job requiring great service skill. And second, even if that client does close, she’s very likely to have a poor experience with you that she won’t want to repeat, and won’t want anyone she knows to have that same poor experience. So not only are you less likely to actually close a deal, but even if you do you’re limited to that one deal – not only will that client not work with you again, but she won’t refer you and might even become a source of bad word of mouth about you.
Indeed, we’re now moving into an era when agents who spend all their time prospecting, rather than servicing their clients’ needs, are going to find themselves with increasingly meager prospects. Traditionally, clients did not choose their agents, the agents chose them. Clients walked into an open house, or called on a real estate ad, or more recently called on an internet property profile, and got the agent who happened to be there. Relatively few clients actually chose their agent by working with an agent they used previously, obtaining a referral from a trusted source, or doing comparison shopping.
But clients are becoming empowered in the modern information age, and they are going to be increasingly able to choose their agent based on the service experience other clients have had with that agent. They’re going to “google” the agent they met at the open house, to see what other clients had to say about her on agent rating sites. They’re going to be able to evaluate the performance of that agent, through criteria like ratio of listings taken to listings sold or how much the agent’s sellers have to discount their price to get a listing sold. They’re not simply going to take the agent who happens to be in the room, they’re going to aggressively search for the right agent. And the standards they are going to use are simple: how well does that agent do her job at servicing her clients?
So if this modern age is going to value and reward great service, then we need to change our education systems to teach agents how to give that great service. Client-Oriented Real Estate, or C.O.R.E., is a rejection of the traditional way of developing your business by starting with manipulative sales techniques or mindless, life-sucking prospecting. Instead, recognizing how the world has changed, CORE teaches you to start with what always should have been the foundation for the real estate business: learning how to be great at your job of helping people buy and sell real estate, and thereby provide a great service experience to a client. That’s our starting point.
It’s not, though, the ending point. Being client-oriented does not mean being a pushover for every demanding or obnoxious client. It does not mean that you have to be a saint taking an oath of poverty, working selflessly to help your clients without regard to your own personal and professional success. We believe that being client-oriented is actually the path toward professional success, that it’s a superior way to not just deliver service but also to generate business through new potential clients and to win those clients over when you meet with them.
You can be client-oriented not just in the way that deliver a great service experience to your clients, but also in the way you develop new clients and convince them to work with you. We’re not going to talk about “prospecting,” and we’re not going to talk about how to do “presentations.” Instead, we’re taking those traditional methodologies and re-orienting them to focus on the client first. So rather than “prospecting,” we have a client-oriented system of business development called “Service Oriented Lead Development,” or “S.O.L.D.” And rather than the classic listing or buyer “presentation,” we’re going to teach you about client-oriented “consulting,” which requires listening to the client’s needs rather than talking about yourself. The C.O.R.E. system has the same goal as traditional sales methods – to help you build a great real estate business – but provides a different, better, and more fulfilling way to get there.
The common theme through all three parts of the system is the essential client-centered foundation of putting the client’s needs first. Whether we’re talking about Service, Development, or Counseling, we’re going to always come back to this central methodology:
First, identify the client’s needs.
What does this particular client need? This need identification is the starting point of the method, and applies to anyone you ever come in contact with. Realize that everyone is different, and we all have different needs. Moreover, everyone needs a real estate agent, even when they’re not buying or selling a home, and even if they themselves don’t realize it yet. If they are buying or selling, then they have very specific and immediate needs. But even someone who is not actively in the market needs real estate advice and information, anything from an update on the market to advice about the impact of home renovations on a home’s value. Everyone needs a real estate agent, and the agent who actively tries to continually identify the needs of clients and potential clients will ultimately be very successful.
Second, determine how to service that need.
Once you’ve identified your client’s (or potential client’s) needs, you then have to figure out how to service that need. How can you fill that need? What resources and tools do you have, and how will you use them to satisfy the client. Whether it’s someone who is actively buying or selling, or someone you meet at a party, you need to have a host of tools that you know how to use to fulfill that client’s needs.
Finally, once you’ve identified the need, and determined how to service it, you then have to execute. Lean how to efficiently and effectively use the tools you have to service those needs, and then do a great job taking care of what the client wants. While you do that, you’ll build that relationship with the client. The client who is listed with you or buying with you will increasingly trust you as you continually take care of her needs. The client who bought with you last year will come to rely on your for advice and information, and likely will drop your name every chance she gets. And the potential client you barely know will develop an appreciation for your professionalism, and will be more likely to turn to you for his real estate transactional needs.