By Joe CookeFrom initial phone call or e-mail to final closing, your real estate career depends upon how well you communicate. You provide information to prospects, you negotiate on behalf of your clients and you follow up with past customers to obtain repeat business and referrals. Most of your day is spent communicating, and you can tell how well you are doing that by how easy your day turns out and by how much money you are making.
Take a moment right now to assess your communication program. Check out these top-five trouble-spots and then take your communication style up a notch by implementing at least one new idea.
Top Blunder #5 – Lack of communication
If you leave your clients in the dark, they will imagine the worst. You have a duty to communicate with them, so keep your clients informed. Call them, even if just to say “I have nothing to report.”
Often, we think we are communicating but we are not. Communication involves both a transmitter and a receiver. You may have sent 10 e-mails updating your client on every nuance of the transaction so far, only to get an angry call: “What’s going on?”
Believe it or not, there are people out there that (a) don’t open their e-mail or (b) never even receive it. Unthinkable? Think again. If your e-mail has a pretty background or even a logo graphic, it could end up being tagged as spam, even if your clients have indicated otherwise. Spam identified at the Internet Service Provider level never even makes it to your client’s desktop e-mail program.
Occasionally, we just neglect a client. We get busy, or nothing is going on with that client’s property at the moment. Neglect is an excellent way to lose a client. If you need a visual reminder of this point, set your favorite potted house plant on the back porch for two months, neglect it and see what happens.
Top Blunder # 4 – One-dimensional communication
Janelle runs a book store. She hates e-mail. She’ll go for weeks without checking it. She’d rather call or be called. Her husband is a real estate agent who can’t stand to be away from his e-mail. She says the phone is the best medium for communication, he says e-mail is best. Who is right?
Generally speaking, from most effective to least effective, the most common modes of communication rank like this: face-to-face, phone calls, personal notes, voice mail, e-mail and direct mail. We use voice mail and e-mail extensively, often by necessity rather than by choice, and yet they are two of the least effective modes of communication.
On the other hand, e-mail has some advantages.
From a time-management perspective, e-mail is effective because you can compose it any time, edit it and then send and read it at your convenience. It works well when you have to disseminate a standard message to more than one person.
“We do all our scheduling via e-mail,” says Rodgers. “It allows us to provide a lot of details we can’t provide over the phone.”
However, be aware that many, many people, like Janelle, do not read their e-mail. In a sense, e-mail is like radio advertising – people only get the message if they are tuned in.
Voice mail is another one-way medium that can leave your message partially or fully undelivered. Busy people may have to catch another call before they’ve listened to your entire message, or they may even delete your message mid-stream if they get impatient.
If you call and you don’t get an answer, it is polite to leave a voice mail, but keep it short and to-the point. Also, speak clearly and s-l-o-w-l-y. Leave your name, phone number and two good times to call you back.
Personal, face-to-face contact is your most powerful communication tool, followed by person-to-person phone contact. In fact, Rodgers contends that no one is truly a prospect until you have spoken to them on the phone.
Top Blunder #3 – Incompleteness
Very few agents purposefully leave out information, but sometimes we make assumptions about what other people know. You have a duty to share any detail that might possibly have a bearing on the transaction. As an agent of the seller or buyer, you are their ears and eyes. Be objective and observant. Also, be honest and direct but tactful. Honesty means sharing all pertinent information accurately.
For instance, several years ago a couple moved to the east coast and soon their new home was barraged by visitors and curious on-lookers. It turns out that for years the house had been promoted for years as haunted. Although everyone in the local community knew this, the buyer did not, and the real estate agent did not disclose what they considered to be a material fact. The case went to court and the judge decided that, for legal purposes, the house was in fact haunted. The agent made an assumption that a common fact was known by the buyers, but it was not.
To improve your verbal and non-verbal communications in a major way, join your local Toastmasters group. Toastmasters is not just about public speaking. It’s about leadership, communication and organization. Learning to speak in a supportive group helps you to develop confidence, clarity and style. You will learn to clearly communicate important points in a manner that your clients and prospects can understand.
Top Blunder #4 – Not having a communication plan
Rodgers suggests using all of the available communication modes systematically. For instance, you may use an e-mail auto-responder to quickly reply to an initial on-line inquiry, followed up by a phone call and then a personal note. A few days later, you may send a follow-up e-mail and another follow-up phone call.
According to plan, possible prospect Amber received two e-mails, three voice-mails and a personal note but never responded. When the agent finally popped in to her office, he smiled and said, “Hi, just stopped by to see if you got my note.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. Papers cascaded off her desk. “I’m just so busy right now.”
The agent verified her e-mail address and she told him that she had received the e-mails. She apologized and they made an appointment for another day.
With Amber, the transition from inquiry to prospect took persistence, a variety of communication styles and a follow-up system.
Top Blunder #5 – Making assumptions
All the other blunders can be traced back to this one. You have to put your personal likes and dislikes aside. You may love e-mail and hate the phone, but if your client loves to get a phone call and hates to check e-mail, you are going to have to adapt.
How do you figure out your client’s preferred method of communication?
“Don’t assume – ask,” says Rodgers.
It all comes down to this. When you communicate with your client, it is up to you, as the professional, to choose the most appropriate medium for both the message and the recipient. Be persistent but not pushy. Respect other people’s busy lives. Don’t make assumptions, don’t take rejection personally, be careful with your words and always do your best. No one can ask any more of you than that.
The Five Rules of Proper “E-tiquette”
When sending e-mails, show your professionalism and increase your chances of getting through to your client by following these five rules of e-mail etiquette:
(1) Keep your e-mail short and sweet.
(2) Don’t use ALL CAPS unless you want to SCREAM at someone.
(3) Never put anything in a business e-mail that you would not proudly write on company letterhead for all to see (including the press).
(4) Stick with text formatting; no html or fancy stationary backgrounds.
(5) Finally, spell-check your document. Most e-mail composers have a built-in spell-checker so there really isn’t any excuse for most typos. Even so, you still have to read your letter once over before you send it. For instance, eye no they rare know miss steaks inn these arctic ill bee cuss Iran spill chick.
Joe Cooke writes and speaks regularly on marketing, motivation and self-improvement. Visit www.joecooke.com for more information.