Okay so this is truly applicable to anyone in business but Realtors take notice... Think about how this relates to working with home buyers. Are you doing a client intake session or are you just a tour guide of what's on the market??
This is from Seth Godin's blog today. Let's dissect it for the real estate agent. My notes are in italics and parentheses.
Avoiding "I'll know it when I see it"
This is a waste for the buyer and the seller.
When you have a business or individual waiting for you to bring them custom work (houses to view), it can lead to an endless cycle of, "hmmmm not quite right." If the architectural drawings, high-heeled shoes or ad campaign doesn't meet their unstated standards, you're back to doing it again. (How many times has this happened when showing houses? You think you know what they want, show them what should be the perfect house, only for them to say, yeah, not quite right and it's back to the MLS drawing board.)
Sometimes you can make a handsome profit on all the fees you charge to redo things that indulge the ego of the customer, but more likely than not, your time is wasted until they're happy.(as we well know our time is completely wasted unless they buy something through us.The more times we re do our work, the LESS likely they are to buy from us.) If you have a client who feels the same way, you can work together to save time and money by being clear with each other about what's wanted.
I think helping a client say what they want before they see it is a worthy endeavor.
- Do it on purpose. When engaging with a new client, intentionally create an environment where personal taste is described in advance, and as much boundary-building as possible is done when it's cheap to iterate, not at the end when it's expensive. (this is a proper intake session and the time to introduce a buyer's agent agreement, samples of properties to gauge style and important features, get them prequalled, and outline the process of working with you to buy their next home.)
- Demand benchmarks. The world is filled with things that are a lot like what you've been asked to create. So mutually identify them. Show me three other websites that feel like what you're hoping to feel like. Hand me a hardcover book that has type that reads the way you want yours to read. Walk me through a building that has the vibe you're looking for... (have THEM show YOU houses they like online and ask them to describe exactly what they like and don't like about the properties. Ask them what they would change about it, if anything. Ask them why they like or don't like specific features.)
- Describe the assignment before you start. Using your words and the words of the client, precisely state what problem you're trying to solve. "We're trying to build something that does a, b and c, and not d..." (write this down, put it on paper, ask them if there's anything else they'd like to add, and then give them a copy before they leave.)
- Then, before you show off your proposal (listings to go and view), before you hand in your work, restate the problem again. "You asked us to do a, b and c at a cost of under X. What I'm about to show you does a, it does b and it does c... and it costs half of X." This sort of intentional restatement of the scope of work respects your client by honoring their stated intent, at the same time it focuses your work on the stated goals. (show them how each of the listings matches their criteria and how.)
- Make a decision about whether you want a reputation for doing this sort of focused work. If you do, don't work for clients who don't buy into the process. Over time, you'll earn the kind of clients you want. (absolutely!!!)
Of course, this isn't going to work every time. Sometimes the client loves the power of saying no. Sometimes the client isn't articulate enough to describe what she wants. And sometimes the goal is magic, and no one knows how to describe that in advance. (True... however let's make our best effort to do this each and every time and watch the difference it makes, not only in time saving but also in client retention and referral.)