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Every day challenges arise in the workplace. They may be minor, such as someone’s behind in their monthly marketing efforts. Other times, it’s something bigger, such as a transaction that threatens to fall through or an angry client. Agents who are problem solvers aren’t daunted by these challenges; instead, they handle them with confidence, knowing they’re doing the right thing for their clients and the business. So how can you turn your team into problem solvers?

Instruct, then back off!
Empowered agents are comfortable making decisions because they know you trust them to make the right ones. Your faith in their abilities helps them feel more confident when faced with a tough issue. More importantly, they understand that your faith in them doesn’t come down to a single decision; rather, you trust that their skills and experience will guide them in the right direction.

Embrace problems as opportunities for growth.
When problems arise, many people get anxious and worried. They become more concerned about potential negative outcomes than finding a solution. When people see problems as opportunities, they become more open to discussing the issues at hand and finding common ground because they see the whole experience as a chance to learn something new.

Encourage transparency.
Transparency puts the questions, concerns and perspectives of all stakeholders in the open so there aren’t any secrets and everyone is heard. Since everything is out in the open, people feel more comfortable engaging in open dialog and working toward a solution.

Teach them how to listen.
There’s a difference between listening and hearing. You may hear that someone is talking, but you may not be listening to what they’re saying. Listening involves taking into account verbal and non-verbal cues and paying attention to body language and tone. Follow the LIMS formula:

  • Listen to what the person is telling you, taking notes if you can. Always be polite and keep your focus on the speaker.
  • Isolate the person’s concerns, fears and frustrations.
  • Mirror, or repeat, what you’ve heard in a neutral tone to verify you understood what they said and clarify any lingering concerns.
  • Solve and close the issue so you can move forward.

Develop a strategy.
Many of the issues your agents face are ones commonly faced in real estate. Offer strategies you’ve used to deal with the same challenges. Encourage your experienced agents to share their “war stories” to help newer or less experienced agents on the team. Take it a step further and encourage your agents to practice dialogs and role play situations so they feel comfortable if faced with a similar situation.

Here’s a basic strategy for solving problems:

  1. Define the problem and its root cause. If a client is angry about a transaction, it’s easy to get defensive. Have your agents ask them why they’re angry and you’ll often get to the cause of the issue. More often than not, misunderstandings arise from unmet expectations. That is, the client may expect one thing—say, his house will sell in three weeks—but if it’s been four weeks, he may be upset. Miscommunication of expectations is often at the root of the issue.
  1. Mitigate emotions and emotional reactions. When people are upset, it’s easy to get emotional and defensive. Instead of pointing fingers and matching the client’s emotional level, encourage your agents to keep a cool head. Often, the level-headed agent is able to diffuse a heated situation just by staying calm.
  1. Look for solutions. With emotions in check, the agent and client are able to think of possible solutions. To go back to the previous example of the upset client who expected his home to sell within three weeks, the agent can explain the state of the local market. Are other homes experiencing a similar issue? Did interest rates unexpectedly rise? Did a large local business close its doors, leading to a reduced demand for the area? Knowledge is powerful. Encourage your agents to keep up with what’s going on in the local area. Additionally, misunderstandings are often avoided with consistent communication. If your agents contact their active sellers each week to touch base, they can keep their clients up to date on the process and understand any potential setbacks or issues that may arise before they occur.

Training your agents to become problem solvers may take time, especially if they’re new to the business; however, with training and mentorship, they’ll soon develop the confidence to handle with ease whatever comes their way.

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