Fireworks broke out these last few weeks with Chris Smith (Inman News Evangelist) publishing his Real Estate is no longer a relationship business piece. As expected, not only did it start a conversation, but resulted in a few rebuttal posts, (which are linked to at the end of this blog), and a few comments that were downright nasty. I was paying attention to the conversation as it developed, from the sidelines, mostly, and here are my takeaways, as a consumer of any good or service, not just real estate.
What Chris was saying, in essence, was that he, as a consumer, doesn’t care to follow his real estate pro on FB or Twitter, or to be taken out to lunch or be invited to your wedding. He wants you, the professional, to handle his transaction brilliantly. I am over-simplifying here, of course, so I suggest you read the postand the comments, and the rebuttal posts as well – all worthy of a read.
What struck me as odd in some of the comments on the many threads where this conversation progressed was the offense some took to the very idea that someone might look at their business as a ‘transaction’, and not a relationship. Which leads me to these thoughts.
I think too many practitioners are still motivated by fear of being forgotten by those they serve and are willing to jump through all kinds of hoops so that they can keep their name “top of mind” of their past clients, so that, of course, they get referrals. I don’t so much have an issue with the desire to remain top of mind, or even the cheesy signatures of “I appreciate your referrals” as much as I resent the idea that the folks who market that way are confusing staying in touch for the sake of future business with “relationships”.
Without going into the rather dull definitions battle, to me, receiving a series of postcards from my service provider is not having a relationship with them any more than getting a coupon book from Target is. Strangely, as a consumer, I’d pay more attention to the coupon book from Target (if there is something I need to purchase in the nearest future) than I would to those SOI/touch marketing campaigns. I don’t care how pretty and non-salesy you color it, I still view those things as a marketing tool, not a relationship building tool. Frankly, I don’t think there is such a thing as a relationship building tool, and that includes the social media. Relationships, while should not be confused with friendships, still involve obligations and liabilities on both sides. And people, by and large, are rather protective of whom they’d like to obligate themselves to.
I think that as a consumer, I’d want the same thing from my real estate agent as Chris – save me the headaches of dealing with paperwork, listen to my needs, make the process as painless (for me) as possible and be there when I need you. In short – handle my transaction seamlessly, brilliantly. I don’t flip houses, so statistically, you probably won’t sell me another home, but if you handle my transaction brilliantly and I don’t hear from you again unless I have a problem with the home – I will recommend you to my friends and family. I will even dig for your name if I’d forgotten it, even if I have to resurrect my HUD statement to do that. What I know for a fact is that I will never refer business to someone just because they keep sending me cards or gifts or because they are my FB friends or twitter followers. I will NEVER risk my reputation with people I actually do have a relationship with because of convenience.
All that said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t become a friend or develop a deep(er) relationship with any of my service providers, be they attorneys, accountants or real estate practitioners. But these will (and do) happen as any other friendships. We click on a human level. We connect and enjoy each other’s company long past any transaction. None of it is dependent on the practitioner staying in touch.
There is supposedly room in each of us for 150 or so meaningful connections over the course of our lives. I don’t know if that number is accurate or even meaningful. Suffice it to say that if our capacity for connecting with other human beings is finite, we are probably all somewhat protective of this finite space and whom we choose to share it with. Let’s be honest and stop confusing customer follow up via any means with building or maintaining meaningful connections or relationships. Your customers aren’t going to confuse the two, and there is nothing that turns off a consumer more nowadays than a fake friendship attempt.
Wouldn’t it be easier to provide remarkable service to all our clients and have enough trust in the fact that if you do a remarkable job, they will remember you, and will recommend you to their friends and family based on that, instead of 33 irrelevant likes/postcards/sets of cookies?
For any of my friends reading this, please DON”T recommend me to anyone based on our friendship. Recommend my company based on the work we do if you genuinely believe we’re the best people to handle the needs of those you care about. Anything less would be an insult to how we do business.
And finally, by way of a disclaimer, my business is currently almost entirely by referrals and recommendations.
Here are all the posts on the theme, in order, all worth reading.
Chris’s original post:
From Rob Hahn
From Bill Lublin
Originally published on my blog at hamedia group.