- Provide clients with enriched experiences.
- Try sending video messages that evoke emotion and fun.
- Build rapport with other real estate professionals to offer more resources for current clientele and increase your business.
In today’s climate of social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, people are feeling disconnected from one another. But the need and desire to purchase property have not diminished. That means real estate professionals have to find creative ways to stay engaged with their clients.
Christian Ross, managing broker at Engel & Volkers Atlanta, breaks down the fundamentals of how such relationships can survive and thrive in this environment.
Learn Client Relationship Fundamentals
“Rapport is more important than ever,” Ross says. “Do not just send emails. This is the time for emails to be a supplement. It is all about communication. This business has always been hands-on, but you have to be more hands-on now.”
Agents should pick up the phone to check on their clients, Ross says, or send cards in the mail. Try sending video messages and text messages that evoke emotion and fun—e.g., choose a location backdrop that was special during the client’s home search. And remember your clients on special dates. For example, if your client is an accountant, message him or her on National Accountants Day, she suggests.
Another meaningful gesture is sending age-appropriate games to the children of your clients. Set notifications in your CRM or calendar to periodically reach out to clients on social media to stay abreast of what’s going on in their lives, she adds.
Ross, a 15-year real estate veteran, focuses on three main factors when it comes to her clients: providing an enriched experience, actively listening, and effectively executing.
“A lot of [agents] are thinking of the next thing to say and they’re not taking the time to actually listen,” she says. Active listening is the cornerstone of communicating with clients. “When you actively listen to your clients, it informs the experiences you are creating.”
When faced with objections from clients, Ross says actively listening and digging deeper to truly grasp the needs of potential buyers is imperative. Repeating something back to customers can help clarify exactly what they mean and reveal their true needs, she adds.
At a time when housing inventory is low and buyers are finding themselves in bidding wars, Ross says transparency and managing clients’ expectations is essential—and communication is key in accomplishing that.
Execution is especially important when following up. “It’s not just about making sure your clients are OK but staying on top of the market to ensure you know what is going on and how it concerns your clients,” she says.
To create a enriched experience, Ross likes to surprise her clients with unexpected treats to add to their overall transaction process. Her approach is to make clients feel good while celebrating them. “When you are creating experiences, those people become immense, raving fans for you,” she says. But Ross underscores that agents can’t buy someone’s enthusiasm, nor their true interest in helping you grow your business—it must be earned.
Expand Your Industry Network
Ross says now is the time for agents and brokers to partner with lenders to find out who has the best programs for their clients. In a business in which connections are vital, she advises fellow real estate pros to use the “know-like-trust” factor. They should talk to others in the industry and establish a rapport to build stronger relationships, she says. Not only will this create a better environment and more resources for current clientele, but it’s also a road map for increasing your business, which may include referrals and repeat buyers.
“So many people think, ‘I need to buy a bunch of leads,’ and that’s a great strategy for some,” Ross says. “The reality is, there are so many people who know you, who like you and trust you, so talk to them for your business. Keep reinforcing and strengthening those relationships.”
Industry relationships have been a guiding force in Ross’s career. A native of Baltimore, Ross started in radio sales more than a decade ago after graduating from Clark Atlanta University. A friend introduced her to real estate, prompting Ross to take a position as an assistant in a commercial real estate setting. After a year, she earned her license and pivoted to the sales side of real estate while maintaining the relationships she established in her first position. The lessons Ross learned in the industry are ones she openly shares with agents, she says. Mentorship from business coaches and leaders from brokerages were a great investment and foundation for her career in real estate.
Find the Right Business Tools
As far as staying on top of what’s new and pertinent in the market, Ross says she uses the data from her company’s in-house market analyst. She also looks at the “hot sheet” frequently to see what’s hitting the market, price changes, and which listings are moving and not moving. For example, condos were not selling for the first several months of the pandemic because many buyers expressed concerns about shared spaces, such as elevators. With the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols, many people have become more comfortable with the idea of buying in a condo building again.
For Ross, video has been the main tool that’s catapulted her career. “I made a YouTube video in 2010 during the downturn, and that attracted the international clients that I am still working with 10 years later,” she says. “They all bought about four to five houses apiece. It was a learning experience that taught me you have to adapt, no matter what is going on.”
Now, during the pandemic, Ross continues to use video. She created an updated version of her YouTube video in 2015 and is filming a 2020 COVID-19 edition. The industry shift toward technology is rooted in people wanting to connect, especially in an era that’s reinforcing the importance of empathy. But feelings of being isolated persist, she adds. That’s why she has doubled down on investing in her business and is devoting time to celebrating her clients. Ross has increased her monthly spend on her business by 30%, and she is confident she will have a great ROI.
Use Personal Touches to Build Relationships
Ross said she sends her VIP clients and clients who are health care workers Uber Eats and DoorDash gift cards so they can treat themselves to dinner. To her referrals, she sends custom boxes from Boxfox, which include self-care items, sweet treats, candles, notebooks, and other items with a sophisticated presentation. To add a personal touch, she also creates videos for her clients to let them know she is thinking of them. Ross advises real estate pros to spend two to three hours a week talking to clients to let them know you’re a human being first and an agent second.
“I’m investing in people’s spirits right now,” she says. “I have faith and I back it up with numbers and action.”