7 Ways That Real Estate Agents Can Turn Sellers Into Life-Long Clients

In the work I do as a writer/consultant/strategist, I get to work with a lot of real estate agents to help them grow their businesses. And I just recently sold my house so I got another glimpse into the business from a slightly different angle.

I think real estate agents are missing out some on some key opportunities to get more clients. They may THINK they’re doing everything they can but there are several ways they can do more. If you’re a real estate agent, I want to share with you 7 simple things you can do to turn sellers into life-long clients.

Aaron Hoos

Here’s what I mean…

When a seller signs a contract with you, you get to work to sell their house. In your mind, the home sale is the ultimate measurement of your success. However, your seller needs something more from you if you want to lock them in as a lifetime client and get referrals from them.

Your seller wants you to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week pouring over lists of potential buyers who might be interested in their house. They want to believe that you are rolling up your sleeves and working ONLY on their unique situation.

While that’s obviously asking more of you than you can realistically give, there are ways that you can appear to be prepared and hard working, which will create a more positive experience for your client, which will lock YOUR NAME in their minds for the future.

7 Ways That Agents Can Turn Sellers Into Life-Long Clients

#1. Give A Clear Timeline.

As a real estate agent, you are the expert, not your client. Clients have weird, broken ideas about how long it will take to sell or buy a house. I think their view is often skewed by unrealistically short timelines on those house-buying TV shows, as well as by optimistic word-of-mouth reports given by family and friends who bought or sold recently.

s the professional, you should come in with a clear timeline that says, “many houses in this price range are on the market for X days.” Yes, you’ll need to include a disclaimer that there’s no guarantee but you should give your clients an idea of what others are experiencing, if only to dampen expectations slightly.

#2. Give Clear Steps.

Again, you’re the expert. When you tell your client “we’re going to list your house and show it and maybe do an open house,” the client doesn’t really know what that means.

Give them a clear breakdown of the expectations, how often you do an open house, when you’ll revisit the price, how they’ll know when you get an offer, etc. These are things you deal with every day so you take them for granted, but your clients have no clue and if you don’t hold their hand, they’ll get worried. But if you do walk them through the process up-front, you’ll put them at ease and give them positive feelings about the service you provide.

#3. Checklists.

I wish my real estate agent gave me some checklists! I could have used some for before he showed up to take pictures, then for what to do before a showing, what to do before an open house, what to do when an offer is made, and what to do if I accept the offer.

These simple checklist documents would have alleviated many questions and reduced the number of times I called or texted my agent with follow-up questions.

#4. Market Analysis.

People who have lived in their house for years, as my wife and I did, are not really dialed into what the local market is like. Is it hot? Is it cold? All I had to go by was what my neighbor sold his house for (more than I thought he would) and how long it took (longer than I thought it would).

If your clients are hiring you to sell their house (or even to help them buy), a short one-page Market Analysis report will help them understand what to expect. For example, mine might have said: “we’ve finished the busy spring season and are entering a slightly slower summer season when many potential buyers are on summer vacation. There are still plenty of buyers and there are not a lot of houses in your price range right now so that’s a plus.” Like the timeline (see #1, above), you don’t have to make any commitments or promises but you can manage expectations and help the client know that you have everything under control.

#5. Regular check-ins.

This was probably my biggest complaint with my real estate agent. He was a good guy and he sold my house so that’s awesome but I occasionally felt like I needed to follow up with him because I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of weeks. We had a lot of showings, so I heard from his assistant a lot as she was setting up the showings, but I want to feel like my agent is working hard for me, and the only way I know he’s doing that is with a quick text that says, “Checking in; hope you’re doing great. We’ve had several showings but no offers this week but keep your chin up… we’ll keep pushing!

#6. Contingencies.

Sellers want to sell now for top dollar (of course). As an agent, you want that too (of course) but you’re also experienced enough to know that it might not always happen that way. When you talk to your client about listing their property, you should assure them that you are prepared for contingencies, such as lowering the selling the price or making some other adjustment to the offer.

Telling your clients this might seem like you are admitting defeat and already thinking of lowering the price but if you do it right you’ll assure them that you are prepared for every eventuality and you understand how important it is to sell the house… plus you’ll also address any skittishness they might feel if they get discouraged after not receiving offers after the first couple of showings. (Guilty as charged.)

#7. Acknowledgement of the significance of the event.

When the property sells, you’ve done your job and you deserve to get paid. Your client is probably relieved and excited as well. But remember: chances are, they’ve just sold their HOME… a place of memories and love that they are now moving away from. This is a significant event with many mixed emotions. If you really want to connect with a client and lock them in long-term, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the significance and experience it with them.

Summary

As a real estate agent, your job is to serve your seller by listing the house and trying to find a buyer for it. But in reality, you have a much bigger responsibility than that: you need to make them feel like they are at the top of your mind and you are doing everything in your power to sell their house. These 7 tips can help you create a loyal, lifetime client from every seller you serve.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Business models, prospecting, and social media’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are a few of the things that caught my attention this week:

  • How to turn your business idea into a business model: I’m totally a sucker for any article that contains the word “business model” in the title. It’s Pavlov’s bell to me. This article by Entrepreneur does a great job of highlighting the difference between a business idea and a business model and then connects the dots to help you turn your great idea into an actual enterprise. This article is a must-read for any entrepreneur who thinks they’ve created a better mousetrap.
  • Live to prospect or prospect to live?: This is a blog post by my friend Mark McLean. Like so many of his blog posts, it contains really practical advice for real estate professionals who want to grow their practice. In this blog posts (which contains video and text — be sure to watch the video!), Mark talks about running (he’s an avid runner) and draws some parallels to prospecting — possibly the most important activity any real estate pro can do.
  • Downtowns: This article by The Economist explores the consequences (both good and bad) of cities. Cities have some advantages, like diminished transportation costs and improved competitiveness (if you’re a Michael Porter fan, you’ll think this stuff is gold!). Cities also have disadvantages, primarily short-term economic thinking that can lead to downturns and even amplify their impact. I live this type of macroeconomic thinking (although I recognize that it’s not going to compel anyone to abolish cities anytime soon). What’s interesting about this article, to me, is that you could exchange the word “city” for “nation” and the article preserves a lot of truth. Many of the opportunities and challenges created by a city are also created, on a larger scale by a nation. This article won’t interest everyone but it’s well worth a read if you love economics as much as I do.
  • 20 astonishing social media statistics for financial advisors: I often hear from financial professionals that social media is not a place where they can do business. It’s hard to target geographically, people don’t want to talk about finances on social media, and there are (of course) regulatory considerations as well. But this article from the Financial Social Media blog, does a great job of presenting a number of social media statistics that should jolt these professionals into taking a second look at social media. I’m not saying it will be easy but it’s definitely worth considering how your financial practice can use social media. If you’re not sure how, start by developing your social presence map.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Referrals, ineffective advertising, and encouragement’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are some things I read this week — applicable to all the audiences I write for (entrepreneurs, financial professionals, and real estate professionals)…

  • 5 proven ways to drive more word of mouth referrals. It’s well known that word of mouth referrals are among the best and most profitable type of “marketing” there is. But it also seems like you can’t control it. But in this excellent article, the writer describes some ways that you can empower others to spread the word about your business. A must-read for everyone!
  • Free exchange: Ad scientists. In this article at The Economist, the writer talks about online ads and how an increase in ad results and sales may not necessarily meant that the ads are working. (The sound you hear is your whole world shattering). I’m spending a lot of time thinking about data, econometrics, statistics, and analytics in advertising and this was a really good (but alarming) read.
  • The dipper and the bucket: A leadership principle. In this article at Realtor.org, Scott Lalli describes how we all have a bucket and we all have a dipper. The bucket (which seems to be shorthand for our psychological/emotional well-being) can be full, which leads to contentment, or can be empty, which leads to dissatisaction. But it’s the dipper that makes all the difference, he says. Lalli says that the dipper can be used to fill our own bucket or to take away from others. It’s a good way to think about how our interactions can impact the people we connect with.

Are your prospects choosing your cheaper competitor? Make sure they’ve counted the HIDDEN costs

When you’re shopping for something (whether for your household needs or your business) you are offered a range of choice. Multiple vendors, each with multiple products or services, provide you with many options. Your job as the buyer is to weigh the costs versus the benefits and choose the best one for you.

So the rational consumer lines up all the products or services, considers the rewards they get compared to the price they have to pay, and chooses the lowest-priced option that provides the greatest rewards.

… Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in theory but that’s not really what happens.

It’s hard for us to accurately assess all of the benefits and all of the costs; it’s hard for us to know which benefits and which costs are most important; it’s hard for us to see into the future and know what we really need. It’s all just guesswork.

So what really happens is: We look at our range of options, eliminate the ones that are obviously not for us, and pick the cheapest one of the bunch.

This is fine except that the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. (We know that to be true but we do it anyway).

While all of the benefits may seem similar between the cheaper options and the more expensive options, what we fail to accurately consider are the hidden costs.

One common area I see this among entrepreneurs is in marketing. Rather than hiring a marketer to help them, and rather than investing in marketing training, many entrepreneurs feel that they can save the costs of marketing by doing it themselves or by hiring the cheapest offshore help they can find. Of course, some marketing you CAN and SHOULD do by yourself. But many entrepreneurs see marketing (and copywriting and web design) as an unnecessary expense (when the DIY option is so much cheaper) and they skip the investment.

The benefit appears to be the same marketing result while the cost appears to be minimal.

But is that really what you end up with?

The costs are actually much higher
:

  • Time, effort, and creativity are needed to create the marketing content.
  • That time, effort, and creativity are spent on the marketing rather than on some other aspect of the business (therefore, those entrepreneurs not only spend it on marketing, they fail to spend it elsewhere).
  • They fail to put the right marketing in the right places — thus keeping the right people from seeing it and acting on it.
  • They spend that time, effort, and creativity on marketing that (often) fails to deliver the results we need.
  • They “use up” the attention of their audience. (Hat tip to Dan Kennedy for this excellent point).
  • They fail to establish credibility in the marketplace.

So the cost of the marketing seems low at first but it is actually high because of the hidden costs.

Lest you think this is a pitch for marketing services, let me give you another (non-business) example to show you that it happens elsewhere: It happens in home renovations and remodelling, too.

In some cases, it’s perfectly appropriate to do your own home renovations and remodelling. (I can do general plumbing like a rockstar, and I can have it done faster than the time it takes me to call a plumber). But in other cases, the cheaper alternative (either to do it yourself or to hire some low-end laborer) comes with a bunch of hidden costs (which is why I leave some more challenging plumbing to the plumbers I’ve hired). I’ve heard countless horror stories of renovations that are stalled indefinitely or of low-end laborers who get paid and disappear before the work is done. And perhaps the work will need to be re-done later by someone who has more skill and qualifications.

And I picked on home renovations in the above paragraph but you can swap that out for anything — car repair, website design, party planning, investing. This is the case with insurance and real estate as well. People choose the DIY option or the lowest-priced option but fail to consider all of the other costs — time, effort, a lower likelihood of success, a lower quality of success, etc. — in the thing they are buying.

Everything we buy comes with obvious benefits and costs and we need to weigh those. But everything we buy ALSO comes with hidden costs and we need to make sure we factor those into our pre-purchase consideration.

YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE

It’s not just you doing this. Everyone does this, including your customers. That’s why we get so easily frustrated when a low-price provider swoops in and steals away our prospects simply because that provider’s price tag is lower than ours. It’s not that our prospects and customers are necessarily cheap… it’s that our prospects and customers don’t understand the hidden costs.

Your marketing needs to solve this by highlighting the hidden costs. I don’t mean that you should necessarily rage against your low-price competitors in your marketing. That’s rarely the best choice. Rather, you should try some of the following:

  • List the hidden costs that people should factor into their purchase decision. Don’t list them “hidden costs” but instead list them as all the things that your smartest customers take into consideration before they bought from you. Make it a sort of “savvy customer checklist” that your prospects should think about when buying. You WILL lose some customers anyway because some people will disqualify themselves with this checklist but you will gain more and better customers.
  • Embed the hidden costs as topics in your marketing. But don’t leave them just as a mention of hidden costs. Instead, always state them in relation to the value you provide, bringing the conversation back to the benefits you offer.
  • Compare the field of choice for your customers. Do the research and provide a chart that compares your offering against your competitors’ offerings. (Be careful how you do this, and be respectful!). Use the chart as a way to highlight hidden costs.
  • Prior to purchase, restate the price of the product, the benefits they will receive, and the hidden costs they will avoid “paying”. Remember that people buy for the value they think they’ll get and they need to be reminded that the value includes saved hidden costs.

When your prospects leave your sales funnel to buy from a lower-priced provider, it’s not always because they are cheap. It’s often because they don’t realize the hidden costs.

The idea of something versus the reality: This HUGE problem is like an anchor on your business (but it’s also an opportunity)

I recently posted on Facebook that I wished I liked pesto as much as I like the idea of pesto. Pesto sauce on pasta sounds so good but I’ve never had a pesto I enjoyed; I always leave the table disappointed, regardless of how skilled the chef was who prepared the meal. But I look at pesto recipes and I order it restaurants anyway.

We all have that feeling about different aspects of our lives: We are caught between the idea of something and the thing itself, and those aren’t always the same. Often, the idea is much rosier than the reality.

This reminds me of a saying I heard once that “people don’t want to write a book, they want to have written a book”. There’s a distinction here between the idea of having written a book and the reality of having to write a book. Any author will tell you that it’s a painful process to write a book and people discover that when they try. (By the way, I tried to find the source of the saying but can’t find it; so if you know, please contact me so I can update this blog post).

Many of my real estate investing clients see this when they mentor aspiring real estate investors. People come to them with a desire to learn how to invest but few actually act on it because they perceive a ton of risk and the challenges of navigating through the unknown is so difficult for them that they fail to act. Once again, people like the idea of being real estate investors but they don’t like the reality of real estate investing.

And among novice equity investors we see something similar: People love the idea of being edge-of-the-seat investors who accept risk and are rewarded handsomely but in reality people hate it and they stick their money under a mattress or in a a low-risk, low-return fund. (But there’s tension between the idea and the reality, which is why sometimes some people choose the crappiest investment imaginable because their neighbor’s friend knows someone who made some money in the stock a few years ago — even if those people are usually risk averse. It’s because the idea of being risk-loving is appealing).

Buyer’s remorse might be a related result: We like the idea of owning something more than the reality of actually owning it, which we only discover after having paid for it.

I suspect we also see it in other areas of our lives: Relationships, home ownership, political and religious positions, hobbies, entertainment.

WHY THE DISPARITY?

We see this disparity between the idea of something and the much less enjoyable reality. But why does it happen, and why does it happen so consistently in so many areas of our lives?

I’m just guessing, of course, but I believe we can draw a clue from two of the examples I gave above — the example of writing a book and the example of being a real estate investor.

In both cases, the result (from which we draw our rose-colored ideal) is rewarding. With a book, the end result is that you have “proof” that you are an authority on a topic and it’s packaged into a coherent, nice-looking book worthy of becoming a New York Times bestseller; it’s something you can point to as an enviable accomplishment. With a real estate deal, the end result is that you have an asset that is generating regular monthly rental income while you sit back and light cigars with $100 bills.

But in both cases, the way to get there (from which we realize the harsh reality of the situation) is much more difficult. A book takes a lot of time and effort — time and effort that needs to come from somewhere else in our already-packed schedules — and you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to write 100,000 words on a topic and maintain coherence all the way through. With a real estate deal, the way to get there seems complicated with steps that require financial investment and a bit of sales ability and TON of rejection.

In all cases, the idea is an attractive end-result while the reality is a lot of hard work (or financial expense or time required) to get there.

So people avoid the work or they work around it or try to do half-assed solutions that minimize the work (unfortunately, this can often lead to even less satisfying results).

HOW THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR BUSINESS

You can build off of this idea-versus-reality disparity to grow your business in the following ways:

  • Identify the ideas that people have in which the reality is too difficult for them to achieve… and sell a product or service that delivers the dream and allows them to avoid the harsh reality. (This is why there are lots of freelance ghostwriters who are hired out to write books for clients, and it’s why there are so many real estate investing mentors out there who are making big bucks showing other people how to invest).
  • When faced with do-it-yourselfers who think they can ignore or ameliorate their problems rather than pay for a solution, outline the true costs of those decisions as part of your sales funnel in order to illustrate how the DIY option is the challenging reality.
  • When competing against low-priced competition, position your offering as being a fuller solution that completely eliminates all headaches and costs associated with the problem it solves. (In other words, your solution offers a clearer way to get the idea and avoid the reality than your low-cost competitor).
  • After people have bought from you, help them avoid buyer’s remorse by surprising them with additional post-purchase value that helps to ease the reality and elevate the idea.

Now the question is: Are you going to go through the harsh reality of implementing this or are you going to click away from this post, merely in love with the idea of it?