By Helen Hull
Building solid relationships is central to your success as a real estate professional. Why? Because when you invest in people, they’ll invest in you too.
As the real estate industry changes and more cut-price models, do-it-yourself options and automated communications are introduced – and opinion polls continue to declare real estate agents as one of the least trusted professions – it’s vital to create real and reliable connections.
Matt Nicastri, Sales Agent at Cunninghams, said it’s time to view people as clients for life.
“Think about it,” he mused. “Lots of people go to the same doctor for most of their life. It’s the same with accountants and various other professionals. But real estate agents, in general, don’t tend to fall into this same category.
“As agents, we need to take a long-term view. We shouldn’t be thinking of clients in terms of a single transaction or just one deal. Rather, we need to see them as clients who have the potential to deliver multiple deals over many, many years.
“Transactional selling is about snagging the low hanging fruit. It’s easy and quick, and you can then hopefully build a relationship from there – but it’s usually hard to do this in such a short period of time.”
Duncan Grant, Sales Agent at BresicWhitney, agreed, emphasising the difference between relationship selling and transactional selling.
“Put simply, relationship selling has the client’s interests at heart, while transactional selling puts the agent’s interests first,” he explained. “Relationship selling says to the client: ‘I’m here to assist you. We’re going to work through this together.’
“Transactional selling, on the other hand, is about selling yourself and having your own personal interest at the centre. It’s about accolades and personal net worth. It’s a churn and burn system.”
Duncan said that many agents don’t set out to ignore relationship selling. Rather, they simply don’t realise that it’s an option.
“There are agents who are sold on the glitz and the glamour of the real estate industry,” he said. “They have a mentor who tells them that their focus should be on being a transactional real estate agent. They’re told that they need to book as many appointments as they can, sell as many properties as they can and, therefore, make as much money as they can.
“But, in doing this, they’re forgetting who they’re working for.
“There isn’t anything wrong with having goals. But, when it comes at the cost of putting both the seller and buyer first, they’re crossing the line to a certain degree.”
Duncan explained that relationship selling has a different emphasis.
“There’s a more inward focus, where you’re creating trust between you and your sellers and buyers. They understand that you’re interested in them and in it for the long haul. Importantly, they know that they aren’t simply a number.
“Building a relationship based on trust means you can bring down some of the walls that come during a campaign. You move away from simply being a real estate agent and become a trusted advisor who, based on your knowledge and experience, is in a position to make trusted recommendations.”
“As agents, we need to take a long-term view. We shouldn’t be thinking of clients in terms of a single transaction or just one deal. Rather, we need to see them as clients who have the potential to deliver multiple deals over many, many years.”
– Matt Nicastri, Cunninghams
Becoming a trusted advisor
Matt added that when you’re a trusted advisor you’ll find yourself in the enviable position of being uncontested.
“It’s really rewarding when the seller trusts you wholeheartedly or a buyer you’ve been working with for months asks, ‘what do I need to do to buy this home?’,” he said.
“The key is to have a genuine interest and curiosity in people and their stories. It isn’t about making 50 or 100 phone calls. It’s about the value you can bring. How can you extend the relationship and deliver more?”
According to Duncan, telling half-truths and relying on scripts doesn’t benefit relationships.
“You need to be able to show that you have their best interests at heart and that you want them to do the right thing for themselves,” he said. “It’s also a more enjoyable experience – one that pays dividends and affords you longevity as an agent.”
First impressions count
Building relationships starts from your very first interaction with a seller or buyer.
“It’s that first experience that counts and the perception the client takes away from that experience,” Duncan said. “Someone may meet you at an open home, review how you market properties online or gauge how you answer their questions. If you don’t give them clear advice or fail to respond to what they’re asking, they may become frustrated. This may have the potential knock-on effect that they won’t buy a property from you and they won’t list one with you either.”
Duncan said it’s important to be transparent and accountable.
“You shouldn’t try to outsmart buyers. Remember, todays buyers are the sellers of the future, which makes nurturing these relationships critical,” he said.
Confidence versus arrogance
Duncan believes too many agents shoot from the hip as a means of avoiding embarrassment if they don’t know something about a property.
“It’s the wrong approach,” he emphasised. “If you lie or deceive or try to manipulate, you’ll lose them.
“Building trust isn’t about being someone’s best friend. There will be times when you have to have tough conversations and put yourself in the firing line. But, if you’re frank, honest and transparent, people will come back to you because they know that you’ve done the right thing.”
Duncan said you can only ensure that you give someone all the information and advice that you can.
“Don’t hold back, but always allow them to make their own decision,” he said. “Don’t over-complicate things or build things up. If you do, word will get out there, you’ll lose trust and become just another ‘dodgy agent’.
“Building rapport is important and being authentic is key. For example, if I see a craft beer sitting on the kitchen counter at a pre-sales inspection, it’s something that I can talk to the seller about on the basis that I’m also a craft beer enthusiast. It’s an authentic starting point for building a relationship. People want to work with people they like.”
“The pathway to professionalism is about building relationships. Agents who only do the absolute minimum, add no value – and we must show ourselves to be adding value.”
– Duncan Grant, BresicWhitney
According to Matt, building relationships in the current environment is now more significant than ever.
“It’s important to work out who can act on a property, particularly if a sale is going to be a little challenging,” he said. “In a stronger market, a seller might make a decision to go with an agent who would do a ‘good enough job’, particularly if they don’t have any relationships with other agents.
“However, in this market, they need the best advice they can get and they will gravitate toward an agent who has been recommended as giving good advice and a balanced view of the market – and this is where the strength of relationships you’ve built over time will really yield results.”
Duncan added: “The real estate industry is going through an interesting time at the moment, and how we respond will define us going forward. The pathway to professionalism is about building relationships. Agents who only do the absolute minimum, add no value – and we must show ourselves to be adding value.
“If we don’t nurture relationships, someone else or something else could potentially come along and push into our space. As agents, we need to focus on the customer – our buyers and sellers – and not on being so self-focused.”