How To Set Expectations With Clients

If you’re frustrated with your new clients, it might just be your own fault. Are you properly prepping buyers and sellers for the real estate process?

It happens: You and your team are giving your all to maintain a good working relationship with clients, but sometimes they just don’t return the favor. 

Maybe they’re looking at homes without you. Or, your sellers are off canvassing the town for buyers. Worse yet, it seems like they’re doing everything possible to sabotage the sale of their listing.

Sound familiar? Then you need what I like to call an “expectations contract.”

Your clients should not work against you or your team or unknowingly undermine your efforts to help them. But new clients might not realize that you’re working towards one common goal. Maybe they’ve heard conflicting stories about real estate professionals from TV shows, neighbors, coworkers, or family. Likewise, you must understand their expectations of your relationship.

That’s why it’s important that you clear the slate with an open discussion. Whether your clients are buyers or sellers, baby boomers or millennials, first-timers or savvy investors, it’s important to enter each new client relationship by clearly setting working parameters.

An expectations contract simply ensures everyone is on the same page. This can come in the form of a written e-mail, letter, infographic, form, or any medium that fits your communication style. A discussion will help you create this contract together. It gives new clients an opportunity to express their expectations of you about the process and it gives brokers and agents a chance to communicate how you’ll serve their real estate needs according to your particular method.

You might operate differently than the last agent or brokerage your client worked with. If this is their first real estate transaction, it’s even more vital you “set the table” so they understand what to expect of you and themselves.

My mom, being the wise, retired school social worker she is, has repeatedly tried to instill in me what she taught her students for years: “You have to teach people how to treat you.” Make this the foundational statement as you embark upon a new client journey.

But you must first seek to understand before being understood. Ask clients about their expectations so that you can best serve them. Here are three points of discussion:

  1. How and when does the client prefer communication? Do they prefer texts in the mornings, calls at night, e-mails, or another method or time? If phone is preferred, always follow-up with an e-mail reiterating verbal discussions to keep a paper trail to protect your business.
  2. When is the client available to view homes (if buying) or have a home shown (if listing)? Try to identify optimal times before the first appointment to help make this process easier for your clients. If he or she is only available on weekdays between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., you should know this.
  3. What other expectations does the client have? Does your seller expect weekly reports? Do your buyers want you to preview homes for them?

Once you have a good understanding about what your clients expect, then explain how you operate to serve their needs efficiently. The crux of the discussion should include the following points:

  1. The safety requirements of your office. In this day and age, your office should have a safety procedure in place for meeting new clients, such as making a copy of their driver’s licenses. Communicate those requirements to your prospects from the get-go.
  2. The documents needed to get rolling. For buyers, this includes a preapproval letter or proof of funds if buying cash; for sellers, this may be the pay-off amount, leases if the property is tenant-occupied, and so forth.
  3. Your showing schedule and process. It is reasonable to tell your new clients that you work by a schedule to ensure all of your clients have fair access to your attention and expertise.
  4. A commitment to the process. Be sure to explain what they can expect from start to closing day (and even after closing day). This commitment should include anyone pertinent to the transaction, like children who may live in the home being listed. I’d like to give kudos to Sharon McCarthy Steele with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Westfield, N.J., because she gets it. She created a listing agreement for her clients’ children to make sure that everyone understands the home selling process. She sets expectations properly from day one; that can go a long way in alleviating some of the frustrations agents have with clients.
  5. A commitment to you as their trusted agent. Explain how seriously you take your duty to them and how that means you’ll provide top-notch expertise, resources, and loyalty (which they should reciprocate). Encourage and reassure your new clients that keeping you in the loop from start to finish ensures that their interests are protected and their negotiating position is not compromised. Explain the notion of agency to buyers, and why the listing agent they meet at an open house only has the seller’s best interest at heart. As for your new sellers, explain that you can only protect their interests if they notify you of additional offers they may receive.
  6. You welcome questions. Repeatedly let clients know that you’re open to any and all of their questions. As a trusted real estate professional, you can give solutions relevant to their specific transaction as opposed to generic information found online, mentioned in a TV show, or from a non–real estate professional that may not be pertinent to them.

Of course, no one is perfect. But it’s a very different experience when everyone knows what to expect.

Have more questions? Ask away by following me on FacebookInstagramYouTube, and Google+ or by visiting LearnWithLee.Realtor. And, be sure to get a copy of the 5-star rated workbook, Plan to Win, to transform your real estate sales game plan. Here’s to your success!

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