There is a place in the mall where everyone goes, yet no one purchases anything. It is a place that is in a more central, accessible location than any other, yet it generates no revenue at all. It is a place that people are happy to visit, yet it produces no profit at all. That place is the information desk.
Many real estate professionals provide excellent customer service to the public. They answer questions, they provide data and reports, and they act as tour guides and taxi drivers. But at the end of the day, they are unable to achieve success in the real estate business. It is as if they are operating information desks.
A successful real estate agent is one who can balance customer service and sales. To some people, the objectives of customer service and sales may seem to be in polar opposition. But to succeed in the real estate industry, sales associates must blend the two concepts smoother than an ice cold frappuccino on a hot summer’s day.
The real estate business is just that: “a business”. And in order to survive and prosper (and eat!), an agent must generate significant, and hopefully even substantial, income. Income is not produced in our industry by providing copious amounts of information without reservation, protections or strategy. Neither is it produced by functioning as an information provider. In another words, agents will answer questions about available properties, market conditions, price trends, mortgage rates and more, and they will show house after house, just hoping at some point that their prospective customer will pull the trigger and consummate a purchase.
Often, they will provide all of these services without even requesting a commitment from their prospective customer. But as all too many real estate agents mercilessly and eventually discover, “hope” does not pay the bills.
I am not advocating that real estate professionals omit the requisite component of customer service. I am advocating, however, that more agents take their business and themselves more seriously, more professionally. When working with a prospective customer, upon the provision of information and/or service at each step, the real estate agent should gradually suss out their customer’s seriousness, and should gently move the customer forward toward commitment.
Early stages of commitment should include a customer’s willingness to provide their full name, alternative methods of communication, insight into their real estate needs, as well as communicating a clear sense of direction.
Then, customers should be willing to view properties, provide feedback of their likes and dislikes of each one, and demonstrate either sufficient liquid funds or a mortgage preapproval in alignment with the type of properties they are pursuing.
Later stages of commitment should include a written agreement to officially hire the agent (exclusive buyer’s brokerage agreement), a decisive willingness to make an offer on a suitable property when one is located, and the provision of earnest money funds.
Many real estate agents excel at providing customer service, yet they fall woefully short when it comes to making sales. In order to function efficiently, successfully and profitably in our industry, an ability to provide customer service must be artfully woven with the fortitude to effectuate a successful transaction. A real estate agent who is unable to see this and unable to achieve this may very well find himself impoverished and seated behind the information desk for a long, long time.