Early in my career, I heard that real estate agents are like birds: They swoop in, grab the commission check, and are never heard from again.
Unfortunately, there's some truth to that analogy. In my experience, home buyers get used to agents' sweet songs during the buying process, but they don't hear a single chirp after the sale. That's because very few agents have a monthly follow-up program after they close a sale. But it's not due to laziness. They avoid it because they're afraid.
First, agents are afraid of bad news. Once all the paperwork is signed, everyone is happy. But as with anything new and exciting, reality sets in. Clients might end up less than thrilled with some aspect of their new home, for instance. Agents don't want to call up only to hear bad news — so they don't. There's also the fear of looking desperate. Agents don't want to look like they're constantly begging for new business. Selling is a huge part of the job, but few people like to feel like a salesperson.
These fears exist largely because agents often view their client relationships as transactional — and that's a dangerous mindset to prescribe to. Consider, for instance, that 42 percent of home buyers choose an agent based on a friend or family member's suggestion. And because the average American knows four people who will be moving next year, there are always opportunities to create a strong client network.
When there's no relationship, agents become commodities. And when that happens, the idea of customer loyalty goes right out the window.
Adopting an Advisor Mindset
To clear the fear hurdle, you need to stop seeing yourself as a real estate agent and start seeing yourself as a real estate advisor. Advisors don't just execute transactions; they nurture relationships. Just like you visit your doctor for a yearly physical, go to your dentist twice a year for teeth cleaning, and receive quarterly updates from your financial planner, you should have a process to stay in touch with clients at least once a year.
The process doesn't need to be complicated. For example, our agents provide clients with a yearly real estate review to keep them up-to-date with current sales in the neighborhood. Very few people buy a new house every year, but again, many recent clients know other people who are house hunting. Additionally, companies can show clients how real estate can be part of an overall wealth-building strategy. We teach the Ninja Selling "Wake-Up Money" class eight times a year and encourage our agents and clients to attend.
When you develop a process of providing outstanding service to your clients and follow through with it, you'll realize that many people appreciate you checking in on them. And that relationship will help you grow a sustainable business. Here's how:
1. Connect on a deeper level.
When you follow up, let go of your expectations around the outcome. It's been said that fear is the absence of love, so rather than fearing being labeled a salesperson, make an effort to show you care about your clients. When you interact with them, be intentional. Look to learn something new. I'm always amazed what I learn about my own agents when I take the time to slow down, listen, and ask them questions. If you're not sure how to start a conversation, use the FORD system: family, occupation, recreation, and dreams.
2. Keep good notes.
The FORD system will help you learn what your clients care about, and taking good notes will help you remember that information. Write down their birthdays, anniversaries, and any other dates that are important to them. When those dates roll around, that's your cue to reach out and ask how things are going.
3. Keep a list of quality vendors and service workers.
Smartphones have given us access to endless amounts of information, but sorting through all the information can be exhausting. One huge advantage you have over a computer is your intimate knowledge of the community. So when clients are looking for a plumber, roofer, electrician, or landscaper, you can provide a tailored recommendation based on their unique needs. We've even referred clients to daycare providers, hair stylists, doctors, and churches. Clients will be exceedingly grateful if you can help them set up a network in a new community.
4. Ask for a recommendation.
I'll be completely honest: It's not easy to ask for recommendations. But when you realize that the next client is embedded in the client you're currently working with, it's easy to see that staying in touch is the strongest business move you can make. Once you've laid down a strong foundational relationship, clients will be more than happy to sing your praises to anyone they know. Plus, asking them shows that you're confident in yourself, and it also puts pressure on you to bring your A-game every time you talk.
Why do so many real estate agents fail to follow up after the sale? It's a million-dollar question, but the answer is really quite simple: fear. When you can let go of that fear and start connecting with your clients, you'll see just how far those relationships can take you.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.