Selling Soulfully with Jennifer Allan

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Screening Your Clients

 You may find during your real estate career that there are certain types of people you don't want to work with.  No, don't get worried, I'm not getting ready to advise you to throw your Fair Housing training out the window.  I'm referring to personality types that you will realize are a bad fit for you.  Relationships developed in the process of buying or selling homes can become rather intense, intimate and emotionally charged.  It stands to reason that every real estate agent is not a good fit for every buyer or seller. 

I am extremely detail oriented and responsive.  Being shy, I am not schmoozy or chatty.  If a buyer is looking for his real estate agent to be his new best friend, I'm the wrong person for the job.  I am also a strong believer in fair negotiation.  I do not beat up the ‘other team' just because we are on opposite sides of the closing table.  I will not attempt to intimidate the other party's real estate agent or make ridiculous demands just to show off for an unreasonable client.

That's my style; it may be yours, it may not be.  But when the personality fit is wrong, everyone suffers.  If you're losing sleep over a client or getting a sick feeling in your stomach when their phone number pops up on your cell phone, you'll be amazed how much better you'll feel if you let ‘em go.  NEXT!

In my corner of the world, I've found that people from a certain affluent, liberally minded town north of me tend to irritate me to the point I can not represent them properly.  I find them to be unreasonably demanding, suspicious, untrusting and litigious.  But that's just me. Perhaps you will have trouble with Missourians or New Yorkers or surfer dudes.

In real estate, people will come after you for no good reason, with no real cause.  You will get through it, and learn something about yourself and about your business in the process.  You can't help but take it personally - sometimes it IS personal. 

It took me a long time to figure out that not every real estate agent is a good fit for every client.  Because my negotiating style tends to be more win/win than beat-em-up, I am occasionally accused of being a soft negotiator by people who enjoy more confrontation and animosity.  In fact, I finally added a few hard-core tough-acting agents to my referral network!  Now, whenever I begin to work with someone I suspect revels in nasty negotiations, I either let them go or refer them to my nasty negotiating associate!

When to Let a Buyer Or Seller Go...
    This is truly an advanced skill. Even agents with 25 years experience have trouble walking away from a troublesome client.  Either you've invested dozens of your precious hours with them and want a payout on your investment or you've spent lots of your precious dollars marketing their home and don't want to throw it all away.

Before I move on, let me say this.  That tough client of yours is probably mean to everyone, not just you.  They live their life this way.  Their days are filled with confrontations, frustrations and general unhappiness.  The entire world is a disappointment to them and they're used to that feeling.  It's really not personal.  In fact, these people can become your biggest fans if you're lucky (and good).  You might even think they hate you and would never send you a referral, but you could be wrong. 

Some of my best referral sources are clients who terrified me; who made me feel incompetent and even stupid. Consider this...if this type of person enthusiastically refers you to a friend of theirs, how much weight is that reference going to carry?  A lot!  Believe me, their friend knows how difficult they are to please and if they're actually satisfied with your services, you must be something special.

Or... maybe not.  But it does happen more than you think it would.

Letting Buyers Go
    The most obvious reason to let a buyer go is if he isn't going to buy a house.  You'll know soon enough if he's serious or not; some clues are his unwillingness to contact a mortgage broker, a general lack of excitement about the process OR even an overly enthusiastic response to every house you show him.  You don't have to be rude about it; just don't make him a priority. 

But there are other less obvious reasons to give up on a buyer.  Perhaps you're feeling a breakdown of rapport between you - you notice that he argues with most of your comments or that he doesn't seem to trust you.  Buyers who don't trust real estate agents or the process in general are lawsuits waiting to happen.  If he doesn't laugh at your jokes or it seems to take offense at your sense of humor, you might be in for a painful ride.  If it's bad enough, he will probably fire you eventually anyway, after some (real or imagined) minor mis-step you make. 

Sometimes a buyer will fire you.  Ooooooh, it's painful.  But also a relief.  You don't get fired by buyers that you love; it's the ones who are making your life hell.  Don't argue with him unless there is a true misunderstanding.  Maybe not even then.    Mourn the loss for an hour or so, move on.  Not every real estate agent is a good fit for every buyer.  Let him torture someone else for awhile.


Letting Sellers Go
    From a technical perspective, it's harder to let a seller go because your sign is in his yard, and most listing contracts don't really address the situation of broker termination.  It's not as if you can just stop calling your seller or ignore his calls and hope he goes away.  So, you may have to wait until your listing expires if you don't want to outright fire your seller. 

Again, the most obvious reason to let a seller go is a lack of motivation. Perhaps he is refusing showings or otherwise impeding the possibility of sale.  Maybe you've been under contract twice and he's refused to make reasonable inspection repairs.  Maybe his price is too high, and he's unwilling to reduce it. 

But what about the motivated, yet terribly unpleasant seller?  She doesn't respect you, doesn't follow your recommendations, yet continuously complains that YOU aren't getting her house sold. 

The last seller I wanted to fire knew more about selling real estate than all the agents in Denver combined.  When I first listed the home, I gave her some suggestions on improvements she could make and explained why they were important.  She discounted my suggestions.  Because I was Wrong.  I also told her that she needed to leave the house for showings and let the buyers discover the home without her presence. She disagreed.  Her home was in a transitional neighborhood that did not command the prices of nearby neighborhoods, but she was sure that buyers would overlook the inferior location.  If they didn't, I should call every real estate agent who showed it and convince them otherwise.  Yeah, right.

I warned her that her listing price was probably too high, but that I was willing to try it for a little while just in case.  After a month, I reminded her of this conversation, but she wasn't interested in a price reduction.  After all, she NEEDED that price to make it worth selling. 

I re-shot the exterior picture of her home four times because the lighting was never quite right.  She didn't like the combination I used for my lockbox so I had to change it.  I reprinted her home brochures several times, every time she thought of a different approach.

Toward the end of our listing agreement, she requested a brainstorming session with me.  She said she had some marketing ideas that she wanted to discuss.  Previous such sessions with her had been pointless, time consuming and draining.  I agreed to meet with her, but sent her an email ahead of time detailing my frustrations.  I listed all the suggestions I had made over the listing period and her across the board objections to them.  I explained that her home was being marketed properly and aggressively and that if she refused to consider my professional recommendations, I didn't see any point in expensive additional marketing.  Blah blah blah.  God, it felt good. 

Not surprisingly, she did not like my email.  She rejected my opinion that her reluctance to follow my recommendations was the primary reason her house hadn't sold.  This exchange pretty much marked the end of our relationship.  Her listing expired and neither of us discussed renewal. 

She ended up listing the home with another agent and eventually sold it, $20,000 less than she told me was ‘worth her while'.  Ah, so be it. 

Energy Vampires
     An energy vampire is a person who feeds off the energy of another, draining the host of their life force.  An energy vampire is exhausting to be around and inspires a desperate need to flee from their presence. 

You will run into energy vampires often, especially when listing houses.  If, during the course of a listing presentation you start to feel you're in the presence of an energy vampire, you're better off quitting while you're ahead.  Finish up your appointment and don't pursue the business. 

I met with a young couple, their brand new baby and their overly needy dalmatian.  A small, somewhat smelly house, screaming baby, whining dog, TV blasting.  Man and wife both talking at the same time, going off in tangents that were unrelated to the market value of their home.  Arguing with each other, fussing with the baby, yelling at the dog.  Dinner cooking, ceiling fan blowing my papers off the table.  Just writing this makes my heart beat a little faster with the memory.  It was chaotic and just plain unpleasant.  My face hurt with the effort of keeping a smile on my face.  I wanted out of that house.  When I finally got away, I went straight home and to bed.  I honestly couldn't function the rest of the day - my energy was that zapped. 

Another seller I worked with had severe ADD (I think).  He would call me and talk non-stop for half an hour about the most inane topics.  He'd jump around from subject to subject, barely pausing to take a breath.  He'd be telling me the saga of replacing his water heater and then jump to a story about renting his condo to a star basketball player who didn't show up to sign the lease, then to a discussion of the curtains in his basement.  My participation was not needed, but these conversations were exhausting.

Don't take these listings - you aren't the only one who will feel the energy zapping power of a vampire.  Your life will be miserable and the house probably won't sell anyway. 

We owe our "good" clients our full attention, energy and enthusiasm. Try not to burn yourself out working with people who bring you down. Life's too short....

copyright Jennifer Allan 2006 http://www.sellwithsoul.com/

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The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
(True Story)
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Comment balloon 22 commentsJennifer Allan-Hagedorn • November 29 2006 08:03AM
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