Get Buyers to Commit to You as Their Agent

Real estate pros who have earned the ABR® designation say they’ve learned strategies to increase client loyalty over the long haul.

“Buyers scared me,” admits Darrell Plummer, ABR®, GRI, broker-owner of Sierra Nevada Properties in Reno, Nev. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get paid with a buyer.”

As a new agent, he used to believe it was riskier to work with home buyers than sellers. Buyers aren’t as loyal, Plummer thought, because they typically don’t sign a contract with their agent like sellers do. Plummer cut his teeth as a listing agent, believing there was more reliable money on the selling side. But he was missing business opportunities with an entire swath of consumers by not targeting potential buyers.

“I was a listing machine,” Plummer says. “But when I’m helping someone buy a house, I’m at the mercy of the listing agent.”

He wanted to improve his confidence as a buyer’s agent. So, when he took the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation course—which the National Association of REALTORS® is offering to members at no cost through the end of 2024—he picked up an important tip: A buyer agreement can help set expectations up front and bring order and accountability to the client relationship. This empowered Plummer to refocus on what he could control: advocating for his client’s best interests.

(If you’re concerned about customer resistance to signing a buyer agreement, use it as a talking point to explain your value as a REALTOR® who follows strict ethical guidelines and higher professional standards. Reframe the agreement as a commitment to apply your expertise and resources to reach your clients’ goals.)

The ABR® designation course can help you build a marketing strategy to nurture client relationships over the long haul. That’s a central skill when serving buyers who may be growing frustrated by the prolonged inventory crisis and ready to give up on their home search. The ABR® course, designed to help you improve communication and better prepare buyers for market shifts, enhances your efforts to keep prospects on the path toward homeownership.

The course also serves as a “good refresher on forms and checklists that you can use to make sure you are asking the right questions,” says Michelle Davis, ABR®, SRS, training director at Atlanta Communities Real Estate in Marietta, Ga. An ABR® instructor herself, Davis has taught the course—which instills skills that help practitioners pivot their business in any market, she says—to 100 of the 1,800 agents at her brokerage. “We need to teach agents to be nimble,” Davis says.

She earned the ABR® designation in 2022 to improve her own training content. Davis’s top highlight for the course is the emphasis on thoughtful client prep. The course advises against meeting new clients at showings (which also is a cornerstone principle of REALTOR® safety). First, sit your clients down at the office or in a public place and walk them step by step through the homebuying process, asking questions to ensure they understand.

“There are so many things we can do to get our clients ready to go before they see the first home,” Davis says. “It’s crucial. So many are first-time home buyers, or they have lived in their home for years. They don’t necessarily remember the process. It’s our job to get them ready.”

Plummer encourages his more than 115 agents to earn the ABR® designation and has hired instructors to teach the course at onsite trainings. He emphasizes the relevance of the designation to new agents, who can get a head start on developing their business by mastering these skills early in their careers. “When they learn this stuff early, they don’t know anything different,” Plummer says, adding that it helps establish predictability and consistency in business practices.

Better yet, Plummer says, the course provides scripts that can inspire deeper conversations about who your clients are and what they’re really looking for in a home. And that creates a more significant connection, highlighting your value beyond the transaction. No one needs an agent just to search for homes, Plummer adds. “Consumers can do that on their own.”

4 Key Benefits of the ABR® Designation

  1. Provides professional tools and knowledge to be an advocate and guide for buyer clients.
  2. Helps attract more buyers by elevating your service and ensuring you meet your fiduciary responsibilities.
  3. Grants access to publications, customizable marketing tools and resources exclusive to designees.
  4. Includes networking and referral opportunities.