Can’t we all just get along?
Most people get into real estate because they love building relationships. Despite incredible technological innovations, it’s still a belly-to-belly people business. But, when you’re working with people in high-stakes stressful situations like buying or selling a home, emotions can run high and real estate conflicts are bound to occur. Perhaps you have a particularly demanding client, or a situation that has gone awry. If it hasn’t happened already, you’ll certainly deal with one at some point.
So what do you if a client confronts you, or a mistake is made? Do you up the ante and escalate the situation? If you made a mistake, do you try to rationalize why it’s not your fault? Neither of these “solutions” works very well. As the real estate expert, you need to rise above heightened emotions and handle conflict with a cool head.
Pre-screen and match clients effectively
Matching a client’s needs with the best agent for the job is a good way to be proactive about conflict management. Smart CRMs can even take the guesswork out of this for you. For example, BoomTown’s lead matching technology will automatically match leads with agents based on rules you set in the system. This can be area of interest, price range, lead source, etc. This ensures your potential clients are paired with the best agent for their particular needs.
Prior to working with any clients, many agents find it effective to set up an interview or meeting. This way you can ensure everyone’s needs are expressed and each person is on the same page.
Listen closely while you keep them talking
When you’re trying to deal with a client conflict, the secret to gaining the upper hand in your negotiations is to give the other side the illusion of control. Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions, that begin with “How?” or “What?” so your opponent uses mental energy to figure out the answer.
These two interrogatives can be extremely powerful in negotiating, as they encourage the other side to keep talking, to clarify and to eventually reveal their true intentions and motives.
“You’d like to settle on these terms? What is it about this 30-day window that works for you?”
Likewise, with “how?”
If a client is being unreasonable about a particular point, take this type of approach in your response:
“I understand, but I need you to take a look at the whole context here. Tell me, how am I supposed to do that?”
This causes the other side to actually put themselves in your shoes. It forces them to be on your side for a moment, and you get the opportunity to hear them thinking out a plan. When you listen closely to that, you can almost certainly uncover hidden motivations.
Educate and connect the dots
Housing information is online, and it’s everywhere. Any buyer can look up past sold data on Zillow. Any homeowner can see what other homes are selling for with a quick search. They look for this information because they want to feel secure and confident in their decision. [Real estate is usually one of the biggest investments they’ll ever face.]
A great agent will take their market information, translate it, and provide their clients useful insights — so they can feel secure in their decision. A bad agent will simply plop loads of data onto their client and say, “It’s a great time to buy.” And my first instinct would be to ask, “Why?”
Sharing real data and market statistics, and then translating it for your clients, or as Steve Harney says, connecting the dots, makes them feel confident in your expertise and that they’re making the right move. There aren’t any surprises. And overall, they’re happy.
As real estate professionals, it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive. Once clients have a clear understanding and appreciation of all the efforts put forth by their real estate agent, they will then be much less difficult to work with and a pleasant transaction for all parties.
Handle confrontation like a pro
If proactive measures have failed and you find yourself in the midst of a full blown confrontation, here are some steps and strategies to reach a successful resolution. Remember, the source of almost every difficulty in the real estate business is fear. Financial fears, commitment fears, bad deal fears.
Let go of any need to be right or “win.” This is about diffusing the conflict.
If there’s yelling, attempt a “pattern interrupt” to stop the angry behavior, like asking them to repeat what they just said so you can write it down.
Employ a “charge neutral” by reading back what your client said in a calm manner, removing emotion.
Ask the individual if you correctly wrote down her concerns. Then ask if there is anything else to add. Dig for concerns to uncover the source of the issue. Continue to repeat back what they say in charge neutral.
If the anger is directed at you, respond with: “It was never my intention to make you angry. What can I do to correct the problem?”
Offer to set up a meeting with your broker/owner/manager.
If the anger is directed at another individual, don’t criticize the other party. Instead, ask, “What can I do to be of assistance in solving this problem?
If you made a mistake, don’t give excuses. Simply say: “Forgive me, I made a mistake. What can I do to fix the situation?” This puts the power in the hands of the other individual and shows you’re willing to take responsibility.
If the anger is completely unjustified, don’t argue or try to prove your point. If you can’t honestly say, “I understand your point of view,” at least write down the client’s concerns and read them back to make sure you have captured them correctly.
In real estate, you spend your days building relationships, managing conflicts, and negotiating for something. In fact, our careers, finances, reputations, love lives and even the fate of our kids at some point hinge on our ability to relate to one another and negotiate effectively. By using the strategies above, ones grounded in emotional intelligence, you’re guaranteed to have the competitive edge in any discussion, handle any conflict that arises, and build better relationships in your real estate business.
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