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Got a minute? If you're a busy manager, that's about all you have. That's why Carla Cross, management coach, speaker, and author, has created this blog just for you, with ready-to-use tips to master management through people.

Archive for customer service

do itHere’s the easiest, least expensive, and effective thing your agents can do to get business.

Having hired and trained probably hundreds of new agents, I know the myriad of questions they have. So, here’s the simplest, yet most effective thing you can teach your new agents (and your experienced agents) to do.

Here’s the answer to the question, “What is the one thing I should do to get business?” Yes, people are always asking me that. I think it’s because I’ve written two resources for would-be and new agents: What They Don’t Teach You in Pre-License School  and Up and Running in 30 Days . By the way, Up and Running was just published in its 5th edition!

Now, we know that becoming a skilled real estate agent isn’t just one answer. But, there is one thing new agents can do that requires

No skill

No experience

No money

Little time

And, this one thing will make you stand out from the crowd better than any other one thing you could do! What is it? Simply:

Write a thank you note (a real hard copy note, not an email)

Why?

Because manners and ‘thank yous’ have gotten increasingly uncommon! You will stand out simply because you’ve taken the time, thought about that person, and cared enough to write—and put that stamp on it.

Write More Than One Note

I’m not going to tell your new agents to write a certain number of notes per day. You and your agents can set your standard (that means the minimum you’ll do).

What to Say

Thank you. Thinking about you. I appreciate you. I used your advice. Here’s something for you that would be helpful. I found the information you wanted.

Note to managers: This is also one of the strongest motivational tools you’ll ever have–writing notes to your agents with encouragement, thanks, etc. Do you do enough of it? Set your own goals now.

Big important sales principle:

Contacting people is simply finding an excuse to write, pick up the phone, or go see. Retaining salespeople is similar!

My challenge: How creative can you get?

Your agents are more creative than they think they are. Now, get them to sit down and think hard about 5 people they’ve started to work with, but need to contact now. What about them fits into any scenario for you to write that note, pick up the phone, or go see?

They are now using ‘advanced’ sales techniques, and they already know how to do all of this.

Sales meeting tip: One of the managers I know actually has agents write these notes during a sales meeting, and brainstorms the reasons one could write a note.

Proof is in the Pudding

My first year in real estate, I sold 40 homes. Also, I sent more things in the mail than any other of the 30 agents in my office. Why? Because I wanted to create a ‘critical mass’ of people who thought I was wonderful. Yes, an agent can also do this with social media. But, you want to stand out. And, you will stand out much more if you write to one person than to many. After all, you are working with that one person who will pay you thousands of dollars. He/she is worth that special, individual effort! That’s the one thing your agents  should do to get business.

Managers: How are you making this simple tip work for you and your agents?

Up and Running_5e largerHelp Your Agents Get a Sale Much Faster!

Why not provide your agents a proven business start-up plan, along with hundreds of success tips? Check out the new 5th edition of Up and Running in 30 Days.

Do your agents have a trust ‘issue’ with their clients? (Look for the Trust Evaluator link below. Use it with your agents to test their ‘trust quotients’–great meeting topic).

We’re always telling our agents to ‘work smarter’, not harder. Yet, what does that mean? For one thing, in this low-trust world, it means creating high trust as a foundation for any sales action and decision. Yet, in the ‘on fire’ market of the past, agents didn’t have to work very hard at creating trust. The market forced decisions and the consumers ended up buying from an agent they may not really know. Those days are over.

Why Creating Trust is a $$$ Issue

Do you know how much more it costs to get a new client than to keep an old one? Marketers tell us 6-9 times more. So, it’s just good business sense to train your agents to create high trust with clients for return and referral business.

How You Can Help Your Agents Create Trust

Salespeople can’t sell anything to anyone without first establishing an exceptional level of trust–an increasingly difficult thing to do. The ten tips below shared on in a recent radio show help sales professionals build a ‘platinum level’ of trust.

Five Tips to Raise your Agents’ Client Trust Levels

Here are 5 tips, with special comments to you as a leader–in blue.

1. Learn non-verbal skills and apply them in writing, on the phone, and in person to establish rapport in an increasingly ‘cold inquiry’ world. 

Are you teaching them Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NL))? Are you working with them to pace and mirror in interactive workshops?

2. We believe what others say about a salesperson, not what the salesperson says about themselves. Use testimonials; check evaluation websites to see what consumers are saying about you.

Are you checking out what the consumers are saying about your agents on the web?

Look at www.realestateratingz.com and www.incredibleagents.com.

3. Create an after-the-sale survey and use it consistently. If there’s something wrong, fix it fast.

Do you have an after sale survey that you send out from the office? How do you handle surveys that are less than stellar?

4. We believe what we see, not what we hear. Show, don’t tell. Use visual presentations consistently.

Are you working with your agents to practice showing evidence?

5. Flip your sales presentations. Ask questions—lots of questions—first. Educate. Finally, sell (well, you won’t have to sell).

Do you have a planned presentation you teach agents–and have them practice until they are ‘killer’?

Click here to get your Trust Evaluator.

Whack: Toss the mantra ‘our agents are our customers’. The real customer is demanding we pay attention to them—or else.  

Many brokers call their agents their ‘customers’. We thought that, by calling our agents our customers, we would please them, create loyalty and forge recruiting tools. This trend of calling agents ‘customers’ was a reaction to the old-style ‘father knows best’ management. Not a bad thought, but, unfortunately, too limiting. We assumed that, if we provided the services agents wanted, everything would be wonderful.

That thought process has sure gotten us into trouble. Why? Because we forgot that the person who actually pays commissions is called a ‘buyer’ or a ‘seller’—the end user. If the end user is unhappy, they vote with their feet. The result of our lack of focusing on the end user is plummeting commissions and alternative ‘agent-lite’ companies, relying much more on technology than personal service. 

The bigger business world got it long ago. When is the last time you were asked about the level of service in a business you were using? I’ll bet you are asked at least once a week. The bigger world of business discovered long ago that they had to satisfy the needs of the consumer-and that those needs were escalating by the minute. 

How do we put the real consumer first, providing the services that make them so happy they would never leave us?

 Recommendations: 

  1. Quit hiring non-committed agents. They simply will not do the work, create a business, and serve consumer needs to warrant a ‘generous’ commission
  2. Establish standards of production for your agents. What do you expect of them—and when?
  3. Accept that a low-producing agent cannot and does not provide excellent service—and the consumer knows that
  4. Pretend you are a consumer. Which of your agents would you want to work with? Which of your agents wouldn’t you want to buy a home from?

If your agents aren’t your customers, what are they? Perhaps partners, as one very successful franchise has termed them. You decide. 

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Are you building your online reputation with purpose?  In the last blog, we talked about how our reputation has gone online–and the dangers that accrue if we stay affiliated with those that don’t represent the best ‘us’. Now, here’s how to build that reputation the best way.

Survey, Survey, Survey

Does your company send surveys after the sale? Do you call all those who don’t return the survey? (They’re not mad enough to dump on you, but they’re probably not happy enough to eagerly complete the survey). Do you fix problems fast? If so, you are in the ‘vast minority’ of real estate companies.

Associations are Starting To Survey

One Realtor association, the Houston Association of Realtors, has decided to regularly survey consumers on behalf of their members. In just a short period of time, the Houston association has gotten a staggering 47% response rate! I think that means the consumer really, really, wants to tell us what he thinks of us.

Don’t have a survey? Click here to get my After Sale Survey.

Suggestion: Send it from the office. Or, ask an independent company to send it. You’ll get a much better return rate.

  Rebuilding Trust: The Hidden Challenge

 The hidden, and I think, biggest challenge in real estate today is rebuilding trust. For, without trust, you can’t form rapport. You can’t move the sale forward. You certainly can’t get to ‘yes’. You can’t get good evaluations. So, evaluations and action on them need to become a huge part of our sales strategy. Not only do we need to let consumers know what others think of us, we need to make those testimonials available in hard copies, on our website, in our blogs, and in these new sales agent evaluation websites.

It was amazing to me, as I read the feedback from consumers, that the agent probably didn’t know—or care—that those very negative testimonials were virtually ‘circling the globe’. Take charge of your reputation now by surveying, coaching your agents, and separating yourself from those agents who are not helping you build your invaluable reputation.

Sep
20

How’s Your Online Reputation?

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Is your online reputation building–or eroding your profits?  For years, our industry has hired agents to ‘see if they work out’–to ‘give them a chance’. We are proud that we ‘hire from our gut’. We brag that we have great intuition about who will be successful in real estate. And, unfortunately, that gut and our intuition keep letting us down. Now, the reputation we’ve gotten from those hiring practices is viewed from a much larger perspecctive. 

 Reputation and Referral: It’s No Longer Done Just Word of Mouth

 I’ll bet you’re familiar with Angie’s List, or Yelp, where products and services are rated by consumers. Just think. If you were a roofing contractor, and you got poor ratings, it could literally ruin your business. Now, let’s relate these online evaluations to real estate agents. Are agent ratings now available to the millions of people using the Internet? Yes! In fact, some are on Yelp. In addition, though, new websites devoted only to evaluating real estate agents are springing up. Check these out:

 www.realestateratingz.com                   www.incredibleagents.com              www.zilllow.com  

Word of mouth is wonderful, but, since it’s verbal, it is not very memorable and can’t cover a very wide area. But, Internet postings can stay forever—either to haunt you or support your reputation. Read the reviews on the sites I’ve mentioned in this article. Some of them are from raving fans. But, many of them are from very dissatisfied customers.

People Love to Spread their Unhappiness….

You know, too, from experience, that unhappy people are much more likely to spread their unhappiness than are moderately happy people. In fact, the marketers tell us, on average, the unhappy person tells eleven people. Now, with the Internet, unhappy people have a much greater impact on yours and your real estate agents’ business and profits.

 Consumers Just Don’t Love Us Anymore

 The recent survey by the California Association of Realtors shows some stunning and alarming trends about customer service expectations and delivery. In 2005, Internet consumers rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at almost 90%, while traditional buyers rated their overall satisfaction at 37%. However, in the ensuing years, the ratings have plummeted. In 2009, both Internet and traditional buyers only rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at 4%!  (The ratings of Internet and traditional buyers now are equal). In other words, consumer expectations of what an agent should do for them are just not being met.

Dissatisfaction and Ability to Broadcast Should Give the Industry a ‘Heads Up’

 It’s true that the past few years have been very challenging for real estate agents. They have had to deal with customer distrust, indecision, short sales, and REOs. It’s much more difficult to bring a sale to closing. Yet, this is the very atmosphere in which agents should be perceived as much more valuable to the consumer. Instead, the consumer is judging the service received from the agent very harshly. There are several reasons for this:

  • Unrealistic expectations from consumers
  • Inability of the agent to adequately educate the consumer
  • Too many ‘dual career’ (read that as part-timers) and undedicated agents in our industry

 In my next blog, I’ll provide you a survey you can use to gain great testimonials–and fix any problems fast.

Real estate managers: What do buyers really want from your agents? Yes, we can guess, but, do we really know? As some of you know, I’ve been a musician almost all my life. From the time I was four, I was ‘tickling the ivories’.  As you can imagine, I’ve been through countless examinations, ratings, adjudications, and contests. I’m very familiar with rating systems. One of the ways to get great performance is to know by which perimeters you’ll be evaluated.

 How Would your Agents Rate a ’10’?

For example: What would constitute the consumers rating your  agent a ‘10’ (out of 10)? It’s very frustrating when you don’t know what great performance looks, sounds, and feels like. If you’ve ever been evaluated and gotten a less than stellar evaluation, you know how frustrating it is to be rated as less than stellar—but not know what constituted ‘great’ in the eyes of those rating us.   

Read What Consumers Want from Buyers’ Agents

 Besides surveying buyers and asking them to rate agents, the California Association of Realtors asked buyers exactly what they wanted from those buyers’ agents. Here’s what buyers said:

  What We Can Learn to Help Us Get those Great Ratings

 As you can see, consumers expected agents to be experts at whatever they were doing. They don’t want agents to try to help them in areas where they’re not competent (like trying to sell foreclosures without adequate education).  What does that mean to us? The obvious. If our agents going to delve into short sales and foreclosures,  our agents  need to dedicate themselves to becoming an expert.

My question to you managers/trainers: Are you specifically training to the skills consumers (buyers) said they wanted from their agents? What does your training schedule look like? Do you have a training calendar that includes these areas? What areas are you training to, right now, that fulfil consumer demands?

What does the consumer want? Delivering to their satisfaction means more money, less time, and a better business fpr us. Wouldn’t you love to hear people talking about your agents  in the most glowing terms? Would you love to help your agents double their eferral business while cutting your marketing costs by 75%? You can. Read on. 

Would you agree? The more we can fulfill the client’s expectations, the more referrals we can expect from that client.  And, we all know referrals is the name of the game. Referrals cost us much less, and the client referred to us loves us already. Plus, by making the client ecstatic, we have a reason to charge those generous commissions we love—and we should.

 Obvious Question–Not an Obvious Customer-Agent Service Match

You may the above question and answer are obvious. But, we should slow down and really think about it. Why? Because the gap between client expectations and general agent performance has, in the evaluation of the consumer, become a chasm. And, unless we can breach that gap, our commissions will keep sliding downward.

 Time to Think ‘Outside In’

 As you read this, stop yourself from thinking ‘inside out’ (What we like to think about ourselves). I, like you, have spent most of my adult working life as a Realtor. I sold hundreds of homes. I hired, trained, and coached thousands of agents. It’s painful for me, as it is for all of us, to look at ourselves from ‘the outside’. But, if we want to sustain our practices in the best way possible, we have to close that gap between what we think of ourselves and what consumers think of our practices. We have to think ‘outside in’ (look at ourselves from the consumer perspective).

 Buyers Talk—Let’s Listen 

Take a look at this survey of 2009 from the California Association of Realtors.

 

 CAR asked buyers to rate the overall satisfaction level with their buyer’s agent. Wow! 4 out of 100! Now, I know that’s not true of your agents, but, it is what those thousands of buyers rated those thousands of agents they dealt with. Is 4 out of 100 good enough to get referrals? Is it good enough to sustain ‘generous’ commission levels? I don’t think so, do you?

 Our Reputation as an Industry is Impacted By Every Agent’s Practice 

Yes. I know most Realtors are independent contractors. We like to think we are not impacted by others’ practices. But, in truth, study after study shows we are. The consumer judges us generally by the level of practice of the agent with whom they have contact. Then, we ‘inherit’ that reputation—whether we earned it or not. And, when we have that less than sterling reputation, we have to dig ourselves out of the hole to prove we’re not ‘one of those’. It’s there, and we have to recognize it. 

What do YOU Think?

What do you think the consumer wants that he/she’s not getting? In the next blog, I’ll show you what they said (what they wanted from buyers).

Have you ever met anyone who would admit they provided poor customer service? I’ll bet not. Yet, we’ve all stood around waiting in a restaurant to be noticed—while the hostess or server gossiped with the other staff—and then seemed as though we were interrupting something important to want to be served!

How would you rate your agents on customer service? Are they working from the ‘eyes of the beholder’ or are they thinking ‘inside out’? (from their point of view)

Which Service Would You Recommend?

I just experienced a situation that’s a good example of good and terrible customer service. I wanted a pop-up window on my new website (www.carlacross.com) to invite viewers to get my new eBook, Getting to Yes: Ten Powerful Tools to Bash those Barriers to Purchasing Today and join my newsletter community. So, in May, I ordered and paid for the recommended pop-up. I got a receipt from the credit card company. That’s all I got. I didn’t get any follow-up emails—no communication.

When I got ready to implement the pop-up, the website wouldn’t let me register! So, I emailed AND called the owner. He didn’t respond. I called and emailed again. He didn’t respond. This went on for 3-4 weeks. Finally, I got frustrated and bought a different pop-up.

A Different Experience

I immediately got a welcome email from the second company. Then, I got 2 more emails. And, I finally got the 4th email—all within the first week. Each email thanked me for being a customer and offered me helpful tips.

A Little Late…..

Right after I gave up on that first pop-up, the owner emailed me with the log in information.

So, which pop-up do you think I kept, and which pop-up did I ask for my money back? You got it.

Customer service is 90% of sales today.

Our Experiences Let Us Be Fortune Tellers

I don’t know for sure, do I, which  pop-up will provide the best on-going service. I don’t know which pop-up is best. But, what I do know, is that, given my experience, the first pop-up isn’t going to help me out if I get stuck!

What About Your Agents’ Service

What does your agents’  response rate say about them? Do they have a ‘professional rule’ about when you respond to inquiries? Most agents don’t. In fact, a recent National Association of Realtors survey said that half the Realtors NEVER respond to internet inquiries.

It’s So Easy to Stand Out from the Crowd

You don’t have to be a top producer. You don’t have to be a technical genius. All you have to do to succeed is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think,

“How would I like to be treated? How would I like to be answered? What makes me trust a person? What makes me walk away from the product or service?” You’ve got it. You’re on your way to a stellar reputation and business.

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