I recently had the pleasure of coaching a new agent who had secured several prospect appointments. Needless to say, he was excited about the opportunity to win these assignments and we discussed his strategies for engaging the prospects in these first appointments. He had spent several days gathering competitive market data, creating spreadsheets, charts, graphs and collecting marketing flyers from other properties all of which was designed to support his position for convincing the prospect to list the property. He told me how he planned to show the prospect that his company was active and enjoyed a good amount of success with similar properties. He explained how he planned to explain to the prospect how the prior listing agent did not do a good job in representing him. This new agent felt fully armed with all the ammunition he thought was needed to nail the prospect and win the business.
My advice to him? Walk in to the initial meeting with a single blank sheet of paper. Ask permission to take a few notes and tell the prospect that you’d like to get to know as much about him or her and their situation as possible. Then…..LISTEN. A mountainous barrage of facts and figures delivered in presentation format does not a relationship make (or build). Before the presentation, there needs to be a CONVERSATION! Taking the time to develop a relationship that is based on trust is what will pave the way to earning the business. Once trust is established, the supporting data that you share with the prospect becomes far more believable and powerful that it would be as a first “impression”. So here are 5 key ways to begin the process of building a client relationship based on trust:
- Differentiate yourself from your competition – There are so many ways that you can set yourself apart from the competition. Many times, just taking the time to listen and ask probing questions will show the client that you are deeply interested in helping them, not just advancing your own agenda. Take a video of the prospect’s property, have color photos blown up to 8 X 10 and have them framed as a gift, visit the planning and zoning board to gain a better perspective, research the history of the building, etc. Think of creative ways to show the prospect that you are personally vested in building a relationship with them and that you’re not “just another broker” looking for another listing.
- Make it personal – If appropriate, tell the prospect a little about you personally, your family, your goals, why you chose this as a career. Ask the prospect for advice about how you can achieve some of the success they have achieved, ask about why they got into the business, what their motivations and goals are. Focus on being both INTERESTING and INTERESTED. Tell stories and ask the prospect to share stories with you.
- Dig deeper by questioning the why – As the prospect shares information with you, ask them to give you their reasoning behind the decisions they have made. This will also give you insight into how they will make decisions going forward. Decisions such as whom to list with and what their thought process is regarding negotiating, etc. Think of a curious 5 year old who constantly follows every answer to every question with “why”?
- Show empathy – uncover, clarify and gain agreement – As you compile information that the prospect provides you and as you get to know the prospect on a personal level, show the prospect you understand their situation. For example: “So Mr. Prospect, just to be sure I understand, you originally purchased the property as a retirement strategy to provide you and your family with a comfortable income so you can travel the world with your wife. You hired a property management company so you wouldn’t have to deal with the day to day, but you’ve experienced some recent vacancies which dented your cash flow and has unfortunately delayed your retirement. If you can get one of the spaces filled at current market rates, you’re back on track. Do I have that about right? Is there anything else you’d like to add that you feel would be important for me to know?” Such a series of simple statements tells the prospect you’ve really heard what they have shared with you and you understand their situation. Asking the prospect if you’ve got it right is a way to gain agreement from the prospect that you both are on the same page. Asking the prospect if there is anything else they would like to add gives them the opportunity to expand on your explanation and also tells them that you are continuing to maintain interest in helping them.
- Become a solution partner – If steps 1 through 4 have been done correctly, you have developed trust and rapport with the prospect. You now have earned permission to propose your solutions because you have demonstrated to the prospect how deeply committed you are to working WITH the prospect to deliver a solution that meets or exceeds their expectations. In essence, you have positioned yourself as the prospects’ Partner in delivering a solution. That is the relationship you should strive for. Accumulating client relationships based on trust is the foundation of a lasting and prosperous career in commercial real estate.