On Monday, I was in the middle of a first phone conversation with a new client. He and his wife plan to purchase a home and are curious about the opportunities available, specifically with short sales and foreclosures. This new client had a number of questions about both types of transactions. I confirmed some of the things he had heard and clarified other aspects of the current real estate market. And then, I listened to myself say something I never told a client or prospect before:
"I see myself as a caddy."
A caddy? Where did that come from? (Just to clarify, I was referring to myself as toter of golf bags, not a luxury GM automobile.) While I have my established stable of phrases that use during first time conversations, "I see myself as a caddy" is not one of them. Recently I have been trying to resurrect my latent golf swing, but "I see myself as a caddy" certainly bubbled up from my subconscious.
Before today, this caddy analogy is nothing I've talked about, written about, or on the conscious level even thought about. But upon deeper reflection, the analogy is apt. Consider for a moment the role of a caddy in connection with a professional golfer.
A caddy knows the terrain. Before a tournament, a caddy walks the course and anticipates which locations where his pro will likely land. He notes potential dangers--known hazards marked by stakes as well as hidden perils. As he walks the course, a caddy periodically drops a golf observing which way the ball will bounce, planning for future contingencies.
A caddy keeps his pro on schedule. While familiarizing himself with the course, a caddy keeps a notebook full of distances--length to the pin, distance needed to clear a sand trap, etc. By matching these distances to the capabilities of his golfer, he puts his pro in situations where he will be most likely to be successful. A good caddy anticipates the the most likely scenario and always prepared for the next move.
A caddy advises and consults. Armed with the knowledge of the course and his pro, a caddy doles out sage advise when asked and sometimes when not asked. How much is this putt going to break left? Do I need one more club into this wind? While the caddy advises, it is ultimately the golfers's decision what do next. A caddy is neither a coach nor a manager, but a trusted consultant working towards the golfer's goal.
A caddy reassures. Once his pro has made his decision, the caddy's job it to give his golfer the best chance to put a good swing on the ball. Playing part time psychologist, the caddy carefully chooses his words for a beneficial effect on his golfer. At a time filled with tension and stress, the caddy tries to fill the pro's head with a positive thought before he needs to act.
A buyer/seller hires a agent for the same reasons a pro golfer hires a caddy: to take away some of stress of the task at hand so they may concentrate on the big picture. We shoulder our clients' burdens and we carry their golf bags. And some clients certainly have more baggage than others.
A prominent real estate coaching company has a dialog that uses the analogy of real estate agent as a pilot and the client as a passenger. The point of the dialog is that as the "the pilot" I'm going to get you safely to your destination (the sale of your home). There is a handout that lists in detail the many forms of "turbulence" that might come up throughout the "flight"--everything from buyers changing their mind to appraisals coming back low.
The problem with the pilot analogy is the passive nature of the passenger. The client is merely along for the ride with no input as to the direction of the flight. Our clients should should be the main character of the transaction, gently guided by our knowledge and experience. The caddy/pro relationship is symbiotic; the better job a caddy does, the better his golf will preform. The better the golfer preforms, the larger the caddy's paycheck. Sound familiar?
The client from the phone call currently finds himself in a "highest and best" situation competing with another buyer. I will tell him what I know and I will tell him what I believe. Before he makes a decision, I will try to put a positive swing thought in his head. Will he score on this listing? I don't know. But if he doesn't...we'll be ready to tee it up and take a swing at the next one.