John Cunningham says you need to discover people’s needs and then consistently deliver the relevant information, value and assistance to create an environment where people will want to work with you. And the same rules should apply to both clients and staff.
Although I’m what some would describe as one of the Old Guard in the real estate industry, having spent 35 years making a positive difference to people’s lives, I still feel the passion enough to keep learning.
And part of learning is stopping, talking a look and reviewing what I do on a day to day basis.I made the decision in 2007, after 30 years at the coal face, to concentrate my focus and energy on building my team to be the best they could be. I learnt by empowering my team, through what I hope is inspiring leadership, that they will shine; and that is what has happened over the past five years when our business has more than doubled.
We work in a performance culture and have moved to a market where more than one in every three homes in our 15,000 home core market is sold by our team (competing with 20 other agencies). In the last 12 tough months, our sales have grown 12 per cent in a market that has shrunk by 15 per cent. Part of this transition can be attributed to our membership of Michael Sheargold’s ‘Real Estate Results Network’, as well as a willingness to look outside the box called ‘real estate’; more than just ‘how’ we do things but ‘why’ we do them. Our values are aligned to our brand, and we understand that the manner in which we behave and perform sets us apart from our competitors.
There is so much talk these days, and so much training, focused on two facets of our business: marketing and negotiation skills. There is a school of thought that if you get these right everything else will fall into place.
I believe the opposite to be the case. Many real estate sales agents, property managers and so on, fail to realise that their primary occupation is to create the environment where deals can happen.
We are all in the business of influencing our clients and customers to make good decisions, but we are not just here to convince them. We must be recognised as a deal maker and be noticed in the marketplace, and to do that we must be and act differently. So creating the environment where your clients ask you a simple question, ‘What do you think I should do?’ should be your ultimate goal.
To create that environment you must look at the relationship you can create as a step by step process of connected moments; a series of meaningful, valuable touch points that lead to a positive client experience where, regardless of price or expectations, the result or outcome is still positive. For your client to have that feeling, you must have done everything humanly possible to achieve the best possible result, as that is ultimately what they are after. When this environment is created the word ‘trust’ has true meaning.
They ‘trust’ that from your commitment, confidence, communications, care and connections you have delivered the best possible outcome, and they become your advocate – or even a raving fan.
The same applies to the buyer in the equation. They have a fear of being ripped off or of paying too much, and have an initial ‘zero’ level of trust. So for an agent to achieve the ‘environment for a deal’ the buyer must be put into a position where they are willing to be influenced.
This is achieved very simply through the five ‘Cs’ that I have listed. There is no difference as to how you treat your buyers; they want quality information to enable them to make good decisions. They want transparency, consistency, honesty and connection from the agent, and this then allows the agent to be in a position where they can successfully influence them to make a positive decision.
I believe that these are true negotiation skills, rather than the ‘hard-nosed’ or ‘trickery-based’ tactics that are spruiked in much of the training marketplace.
The professional agent today understands the importance to their business of every person they meet. Everyone has a potential purpose, and our job is simply to discover what that purpose is. I believe there are only five categories and everyone falls into one of them. Whether you meet people through prospecting, open homes, networking or from marketing activities, discovering what their particular needs are and then consistently delivering the relevant information, value or assistance is all it takes.
The five categories are: Hot Sellers, Warm Sellers, Hot Buyers, Warm Buyers and Advocates. Creating a communication strategy for each is your next step – but first you must understand the value of every one of those categories to your business, because if you do not understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ they connect to the future of your business then maybe it’s time to switch careers. This business is about people and relationships; connecting and influencing business so the ‘know you’, ‘like you’, ‘trust you’ outcomes will, in the majority of cases, win out over ‘cost’. Get that straight in your head and understand that ‘from little things big things grow’, and your future is assured.
So often when I talk to our clients and read the clients’ reviews, I find it is more about the delivery of the surprises, the little things, and how that made the client feel that was most important. They became the memorable moments in the ‘connected moments’ of the relationship, and again consistency is the key.
The last thing you want is for the final touch point to be a let-down, so always top of mind is how this moment will make the client ‘feel’, because that is all that matters.
So how does inspiring and empowering leadership make this happen? It’s the leader’s role to inspire, empower and connect with their team. If you have a leader that applies the same rules to their team that I talked about with sellers and buyers, then the same effect takes place. The leader creates the environment for a great experience to happen. They create the inspiration for their people to be at their best, to extend themselves, to believe in themselves, and provides them with a focused purpose for what they are doing – the ‘why’. When someone works for an inspiring business and has a leader that encourages them to thrive, and they have a working environment that has a culture of authenticity, consistency, transparency, clarity, trust, generosity and certainty, then there should be no external obstacles standing in their way. In the end, your team are just like your clients and need to be treated with the same set of criteria, because they are the business, they are the brand, they are the reputation and they are the future.
John Cunningham is a Director at Cunninghams Property.