As a real estate professional, you have the unenviable job of telling a homeowner what is wrong with their home. As you know, they don’t always want to hear it. How you tell them is just as important as what you tell them.
Some people call it “tough love.” Others may call it “keeping it real.” A new buzzword is “actionable advice.” Whatever you call it, it’s an absolute necessity in the real estate business. In the end, the advice you're giving the homeowner helps everyone reach the common goal: selling the home quickly and for the highest price.
How to offer constructive criticism
There are some things you can do to soften the blow because there’s always a chance that the person you’re talking to could take it badly. Here are seven suggestions:
- Speak softly and confidently. Any edge to your voice can be misconstrued by the homeowner.
- Make eye contact. It conveys sincerity and helps you stay focused.
- Start and end positively. Some call this a sandwich or hamburger approach. Begin by saying something positive, make the point you need to make, then leave the homeowner feeling good about the home.
- Don’t be personal. It can come off as judgmental to the homeowner, which is always a turn-off.
- Humor softens the blow. If possible, tell a funny story that pertains to the situation. There are situations where this is not advisable, so use discretion.
- Be aware of the non-verbal feedback they’re giving. Watch their body language and clue in to their response. If they’re responding negatively, try another tack.
- Be specific: This is no time to be vague or speak in generalities. “The kitchen needs work” is not specific enough. Say instead, “You should consider giving the kitchen a fresh coat of paint.”
Working with a client under the pressure of selling their home requires honesty, diplomacy and professionalism. These skills are critical for every successful REALTOR®.
Did we miss anything? What advice do you have for conveying constructive criticism?
Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It’s one of the great truths about marketing.
Ask any professional in any service industry – pest control, plumbing, landscaper, lawyer, to name a few – about the lifetime value of a client, and they’ll tell you that it’s cheaper to keep an existing client than it is to gain a new one. Depending on who you talk to, it’s somewhere between five and ten times more expensive to market to gain new business than to keep old business.
First, let’s talk about the difference between a customer and a client. A customer is someone who buys your goods or services. It’s usually a one and done sort of arrangement. A client, on the other hand, is someone who relies on the service and expertise of a professional. They not only rely on the service, they use it again and again. They refer other customers.
You can use the terms interchangeably, and that’s fine. But the essence of what we’re talking about is the lifetime value of a satisfied client versus that of someone you sell a house to then never hear from again.
How many homes the average person buys is a matter of conjecture, but it’s probably between three and four. If you are involved in one transaction, let’s say your commission is $7,000. And you’re done. The lifetime value of that customer is $7,000.
However, let’s say that you develop a professional relationship with that homeowner. They like you and your service. They refer you to friends, family members and co-workers and you complete ten sales over the next three years. Then when that homeowner is ready to buy a bigger home, they’ll call you once again.
Without getting too bogged down in the math, the lifetime value of that client is pushing $90,000. For those clients, you didn’t have to spend a ton of money on marketing. All you had to do was turn one customer into a client. Yes, it takes a little more effort, but as you can see, it’s worth it in the long run.
It’s easy to define the brand champion; it’s difficult to identify them and use them effectively. But it’s absolutely essential to building the business, whether you work for a big agency or for yourself.
First of all, let’s define the term. Brand champions advocate for the business or service. They help you promote to others. They are passionate and they are active in helping you to build business. They are positive about what you do, even though they may not have a full understanding of exactly what you do.
Being your own brand champion
You see the ins and outs of your daily business and have a realistic view of what is happening. You should maintain a positive point of view when dealing with customers and other brand advocates. If you are the business owner, it is vital that you’re the driving force behind the brand. Make sure that you’re engaging the customers one-on-one. Respond to their posts, letters and email. Keep your use of voice, logo and packaging consistent. Focus on what makes your brand successful and not being all things to all people.
Employees as brand champions
The great thing is that anyone can be a brand champion, not just owners and stakeholders. Employees who interact with customers on a day-to-day basis have to buy in to the brand. Anyone in customer service and sales should be completely enamored with the brand. They should be very positive, know exactly what the brand image is, and how to convey it to the customer. Make sure they have guidelines in place and know exactly how the brand affects the business.
Customers are brand champions, too
Some call them cheerleaders, but this goes back to the old business cliche: "Word of mouth is the best form of advertising." Today, the prevalence of social media can make word of mouth even more powerful because people use social media to research brands and services. When you take the time to nurture the relationship you have with your customers, they will advocate for you by offering you positive reviews and, more directly, with referrals. Provide them with free stuff. Promotional items are fine; information is better. Give them some insight into the industry. This goes a long way towards keeping a customer, which we all know is less of an investment than getting a new one. One more thing: thank them. Just recognizing that they are helping you to build your business is a great motivator. And it’s free.