The Power of ... Annual Client Reviews
It’s been many years since I actively sold real estate.
But when I did, there was something I did which was the single most important activity I undertook each year for my clients.
No, it wasn’t throwing a party for my clients each year. And no, it wasn’t holding open houses, doing geographic farming, or asking my clients for referrals.
When I actively sold real estate the most important thing I did each year for my clients was their “annual client review”.
What is the “annual client review” … and why should you complete them for your clients?
Simply put, the ACR is a snapshot of market activity which might impact your client’s market value. It is not a traditional comparative market analysis (CMA); instead it provides an overview based on the relationships between pricing per square foot, tax assessed values, and the current market value of a home.
You can create an ACR at any time of the year. I have clients that tickle their calendars to do them on the anniversaries of clients’ home purchases. Or you can do a batch of them each quarter. When I was actively selling, I liked doing them during the first weeks of January, which were historically slow times in my market.
Working on the ACRs in January was the perfect fit for my business! Not only did it give me a feeling of purpose right out of the gate at the new year, the results I saw as a result of completing the ACRs got my business off with a bang when I needed it most!
Why was the ACR so effective? In part, because I was simply delivering solid data to clients. There wasn’t a sales message attached to providing the material. Instead, it was simply another example of my commitment to being an ongoing resource for my clients – and positioning myself as the expert.
The other reason I liked using ACRs in my business is this – I did not enjoy phoning past clients to make small talk. I know that’s an approach that many agents are taught in training classes, but it never felt right to me (and it still doesn’t to this day!). But having a reason to call a client – to let them know I’m sending information to them about the market – was something I valued.
Here’s how my activities around the ACR rolled out:
- Once I had completed the research for the ACRs, I would put the package together.
- I would snail mail the package to my clients (trust me, this is a lot more impressive than sending a pdf via email)
- I would place a call to my clients to let them know that I had put some marketing information in the mail to them.
- I would place a follow-up call a week or two later, asking them to confirm that they’d received the information … and asking them if they had any questions.
I can hear some of you wondering … what happens if you get voice mail? Do you still leave a message?
You bet! The point of the initial phone call is not to have a lengthy discussion with a client. It’s simply to alert them to watch for the information you’re sending, and to build a sense of anticipation. And the second call gave me yet another reason to reach out and, of course, answer any questions the ACR may have raised.
When you complete an ACR for a client you’re letting clients know that they’re important to you, that you’re still connected to them, that you care about them, and that you’re watching the market for them. When you stake claim that you are their market watchers, you stake claim to them as clients for life.
When agents hear about ACRs they’re often excited … but within a few moments they have objections. They usually go something like this, “Denise, this sounds great. But these ACRs sound like a lot of work!” or, “I have 150 clients! I can’t possibly do 150 of these each year Denise!” or “I’m afraid to send out the ACRs because the value of my client’s home has decreased and I don’t want to be the one to share the details with them.”
So let’s talk about those objections:
Yes, ACRs require some work on your part. They’re not as much work as a CMA, but they will require effort on your part. That’s part of the reason they’re so impressive to clients. If you want to be an expert, to be a resource, to be the choice when someone needs an agent you’re going to have to put in some elbow grease.
There are no hard and fast rules about how many ACRs you choose to do each year, or your criteria for doing them. If you have too many past sellers in your database to do them all at once, look at doing them on the anniversary month of their purchase. Still too much to tackle at once? Start by doing ACRs for just those clients who bought in the last two years … or the clients who bought three to five years ago. Figure out a system for rotating the clients through the reviews, and stick with it. Only you will know best what will work for you.
And yes. Sometimes your ACR is going to reflect a market value that isn’t what your client wants to hear. But it’s far better for you to provide this information to your client than it is for them to get it from a competitor … or to think that their home is worth far more (or far less) than it actually is, and be making life decisions based on that faulty information. It’s up to you to provide a strong, calm voice for your clients and sharing the reality of their home’s value in today’s market is a big part of that.
I wouldn’t be in business today without performing annual client reviews for my valued clients. And I don’t think you should either!
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry. With expertise in strategic marketing, business analysis, branding, new home project planning, product development, and agent/broker training, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things “real estate”. With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.