EPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

The Proof Is In the Pudding: Michelle Williams

With most potential new clients starting their search for an agent online, recommendations and feedback from current and previous clients are what makes property professionals stand out from the crowd. Michelle Williams takes a look at how you can build social proof for your business.

Do you ever consider that, in the eyes of our potential clients, we all look the same? From the consumer’s lens, they can’t see any difference between us until we can prove them wrong.

If you haven’t already noticed, our new potential clients start with social proof. They no longer do the ring-around and attend back to back meetings to interview agents; they are time poor and socially rich. They won’t waste an hour listening to us rant about how amazing we are. Ask yourself this: if the shoe were on the other foot, where would you start?

I would start my research by seeking out personal recommendations, either directly with someone I know and trust or by putting the question to my social network.

The new consumer will do the shortlisting from the comfort of their homes. It is now as easy as a post using the word ‘recommendations’ on Facebook; it will pop up in the news feed for people to make direct referrals and tag the business or person. You just sit back and wait for the live feedback, which generally happens instantly.

This is when we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly; the ‘proof in the pudding’. You can no longer hide behind a website and well-scripted listing presentation. If your product or service is not first class, you won’t get a look-in.

Interestingly enough, most of the people who comment and give opinions are not close friends, yet somehow they influence the decision like a trusted expert. Here is some more good news: it is no longer good enough to have just one recommendation to make you stand out; you need multiple recommendations and, most importantly, you need more than your competition.

When that post goes out, you want to hope you have some raving fans rather than the opposite. If your reputation is positive, your fans will sell your service for you, making your job so much easier.

We all know the proverb, ‘The proof is in the pudding’. According to thefreedictionary.com, this means “the real value of something can be judged only from practical experience or results and not from appearance or theory”.

In order to build trust, there is no substitute for face to face interaction. But how do we get to this point?

We need social proof. It is what people say about you or your organisation when you are not in the room. It comes in the form of ratings, testimonials, awards and proven results.

How do you get social proof? We must deliver exceptional service to everyone we interact with; good service is no longer good enough.

When do you start? Now! There is no better time and it’s never too late to rebuild your reputation and brand. It will take time, focus and planning but you can turn it around with the right mindset and a shared vision. When I say shared, I mean that the team must be on the journey with you. Any big changes you make in the business need to be inclusive rather than directive.

Here are a few focus points.

Sounds simple, right? Interestingly enough, most businesses don’t have a focus on the consumer’s needs. The trust in our profession is so poor that news.com.au reported that as an industry we are still in the bottom three of the most trusted professions list. According to the report, only one in 10 consumers believe that real estate agents are honest and ethical.

Building trust is all about communication, care and knowledge. In order for your client to trust you, you need to convince them that you are an expert in your field, that you offer solutions and never excuses. They need to feel like they are number one, not just a number.

Speed is also a great way to build trust. Our clients and customers now expect us to communicate quickly, even if we don’t have all of the answers at the time. When you master quick response times, people will rave about it.

Finally and most importantly, replace email with ‘me-mail’. Pick up the phone and have a conversation, because you will fail to build trust behind a keyboard.

In order to get feedback, you must do more than provide good service. People will not break away from their busy lives to rate your service unless they have an extraordinary experience.

As a team, with a collaborative vision and goal, you should talk about how you can create these extraordinary experiences within your processes; this makes a great meeting agenda item each week. If you really want to know where you currently rate in the eyes of your customers, it is time to ask them. Send out that survey you have been too scared to send and focus on how you can be better. It is also worth doing a regular Google search of your business; if the news is not so good, it’s time to do something about it!

Get the service right and hire people who believe in what you are trying to achieve. I know, I can hear you mumble ‘You can’t get good people these days’. While it is true that there is a skills shortage in our industry, there are good people out there who have the right attitude and emotional intelligence to become exceptional; you just need to invest in their development and commit to building a team of winners.

When you get the team right, the next step is to create consistency with the right systems and technology – and also to build customer service touch points into each process. Consistency is key.

The industry leaders are constantly evolving and they never become complacent. Winners take action. They plan how they will reach their goals with a clear vision and they work tirelessly to keep up with the demands of consumers.

I challenge you to take a look at your business through the eyes of your consumer. If you identify that you have become complacent in your business and you really don’t know where to start, start today. Seek out those who are doing it well and ask them how they do it. You will be surprised at how many people will be willing to support you and share ideas.

Nothing changes unless something changes.

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Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams is the Managing Director of @home Property Management Solutions and has been named 2 years running in the top 100 Elite Agent industry influencers.