Systems for Working with Sellers
Given the myriad communication vehicles available to home sellers today – emails, texts, social media, telephone calls and in-person meetings – keeping track of and accommodating every client’s preference can be confusing, not to mention time-consuming. Yet it’s critical that REALTORS® develop a system for doing just this. "The number one complaint of every seller, with every agent, is a lack of communication," says Ann DeFries, CRS, PMN, and a REALTOR® with Keller Williams in Boca Raton, FL.
To avoid even the perception that one isn't communicating, REALTORS® need to determine which communication tools each client prefers, and then use them. "The most important question we ask early in the process is 'how should we contact you?'" says Lola Audu, CRS, GRI, with Audu Real Estate in Comstock Park, MI. Identifying this upfront helps to avoid both wasted time – say, composing emails that aren't read – and dissatisfied clients.
It also helps to provide information at an initial meeting that addresses common seller questions and concerns, even before they're brought up. Not only does this save time in the long run, but it also shows respect for the process clients are going through, DeFries says. For instance, she'll outline each step in the sales process at an early client meeting. "It's a big event, and clients feel they have a lot on the line. They want to get it right."
Audu focuses on providing up-to-date, consumer-centric information on her website and blog. When clients know such information is available, they often can answer many of their own questions.
Also key is establishing a schedule for communicating, according to DeFries. For instance, the client and REALTOR® may decide to talk on the phone every Friday morning. During these conversations, the REALTOR® can provide updates on the number of hits to the website, the number of showings and any feedback, as well as information on changes in the market, such as price reductions on other homes in the neighborhood.
When both parties have a set time to connect, it’s often possible to reduce the number of communications. If a client thinks of a question on Thursday but knows a call with the REALTOR® is scheduled for Friday, he or she often will save the question until then.
Of course, a REALTOR® doesn’t want to tell clients not to call, says Sylvia Seabolt, a REALTOR® with The Dream Connectors, Inc., in Garland, TX. "And in between calls, I'll let them know if there’s been a major step," in the sale, she adds.
Yet having a set day and time for connecting offers several benefits. In addition to boosting efficiency, it can relieve a bit of the anxiety many clients have. It also provides REALTORS® an opportunity to highlight the steps they’re taking to market the house, and shows their commitment to keeping clients informed.
While it may be easy to assume clients’ communication preferences are determined largely by age (with younger sellers preferring electronic tools and older clients gravitating to phone calls or personal meetings), such assumptions aren't always accurate, Audu says.
Work environments, lifestyles and other factors also come into play. For instance, some clients may not have easy access to a computer during work hours, and so prefer text messages. And even tech-savvy Millennials may want to hear a human voice. "They may be young, but this is a huge event," she points out.
Client and Communication Tracking Systems
Once they've determined how they’ll stay in touch with clients, many top agents use software solutions to initiate contacts, provide updates, track interactions and even to maintain personal information, such as birth dates. TopProducer is one system that's frequently mentioned. It includes solutions for customer relationship management, direct mail, website design and others. Seabolt, for instance, uses TopProducer to efficiently send letters and emails to clients, prospects and colleagues.
DotLoop provides an online environment in which REALTORS® can share contracts and other documents with clients. "Nothing comes close to how seamless it is," Audu says.
Personal Touch Still Key
Even with the range of electronic communication tools available, many clients appreciate a personal touch on occasion. After holding open houses, DeFries often leaves flowers and notes for the homeowners. She'll thank them for having prepared the house for the event and provide feedback. "They've had to step out of their home, and they want to know that it benefited them."
While the proliferation of communication tools adds complexity to REALTORS®' marketing efforts, it also presents opportunities. "When you talk to people in the language they prefer versus guessing, you're on the same wave length," Audu points out. That's essential both for communication and building lasting relationships.
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