All agents spend a lot of time working with people, and if you work with people you’re bound to get frustrated from time to time. That’s just the nature of people. I have a client—let’s call her Lisa—who was beyond frustrated with one of her buyers. His goals kept changing. His price range kept getting lower. And no matter how many properties Lisa showed him (and he wanted to see them all), none of them ever seemed to be quite right.
Lisa came to one of her coaching sessions with me wanting to discuss how to fire the client. It pained her that this was what it had come to. She had spent a great deal of time and energy helping him to find the right property, but she’d come to feel that it was all an enormous waste of her time.
We talked about what was really frustrating her about the process and the client, and it became clear to me that the issue really lay with two things:
1. The client’s lack of clarity about his true goals
2. Lisa’s lack of information about what was going on for the client
Lisa and I discussed how she might resolve these two issues. She decided that a face-to-face meeting—outside of any property viewings—would help her talk to the client and ask some questions to obtain more information. In short, we made a plan to communicate with her client.
And you know what? It worked. Direct, focused communication helped Lisa understand her client’s position better, and it helped her client understand himself better, too. She challenged him to clarify what was important for him, and together they came up with a new list of criteria for his ideal home. The relaxed format of the meeting also encouraged him to open up a little, and he admitted that he had not received a bonus he was expecting and that this has caused him some anxiety about what he could afford. Lisa encouraged him to talk to his financial advisor and to his mortgage officer to clarify the price range that was right for him.
Of course every situation is different, but before you throw in the towel with a client who doesn’t seem to be able to make up his or her mind, try these few things first:
1. Set up a face-to-face meeting, preferably in a location that’s comfortable for the client.
2. Acknowledge how frustrating the search must be for the client (chances are that if you’re frustrated, they are too).
3. Stick to the facts, using specific things the client has told you as a starting point: “You tell me you want to live in this location and that you want to spend this much, but all the homes available in your desired neighborhood are priced higher than your comfort level.” Don’t talk through your emotions: “You’re being unrealistic about what you are going to get for your money!”
4. Ask questions, and, more importantly, listen to the answers. “What is most important for you in your new home?” “What are you prepared to compromise on?” “What have you learned so far in your home search?” Keep asking questions. Get the client to really think about the answers and open up.
5. Remind your client that you are on their side, working to help them.
This is the part of being a real estate agent that requires sophisticated interpersonal skills. This is where you prove to your client that you are more than just a door opener.