Set proper boundaries with real estate clients

Raise the bar in your real estate business

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a four-part series.

Do you have clients who yell and scream at you? Do you work with people who stretch the truth or just don’t seem to appreciate you? If so, an excellent way to raise the bar in your real estate business is to raise your standards and to enforce tighter boundaries.

A "standard" is a behavior that we expect of ourselves. Standards are unique and vary from person to person. Each of us is unique; we all have different combinations of strengths, weaknesses, perspectives, capabilities, and levels of development. As a result, the standards we hold ourselves to will vary based upon our own priorities and combinations of unique talents.

Boundaries, in contrast, include the behaviors we will accept from others as well as those behaviors that we refuse to tolerate. Boundaries are consistent and can generally be applied to everyone we work with or know. To set effective boundaries, you must first identify the behaviors you will and will not tolerate, as well as how you will handle unacceptable behaviors.

To illustrate this point, imagine a castle. Standards are how you build your castle: the colors, design, height, stone, furnishings and size.

The moat is your boundary. Anyone seeking access to your castle must cross over this moat. You and only you control the drawbridge that allows others access to your castle. If you don’t like something about your castle, you rebuild it to your new specifications by changing a standard. If you don’t like someone’s behavior, you leave the drawbridge up and maintain your boundary.

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How can you use standards and boundaries to raise the bar in your real estate business? Here are four proven strategies that can help you create a more productive business.

Tip No. 7: Stop advising others on what to do.

How often do you tell your clients, "You should list your house at this price" or "You should offer at least this amount if you ever hope to have the sellers accept your offer"? The conflict occurs when we expect our clients to apply the same standards that we hold. In other words: "I’m the expert. You should do what I say." This imposition of our standards often generates anger and resentment in our clients.

The first step in changing this damaging pattern is to recognize that your standards may not work for others. As a result, even when your clients do ask for advice, is your advice based upon a similar experience or is it based upon something entirely different?

Second, when you do give advice, to avoid push-back from your clients, frame your response by saying: "Here’s what happened in my situation. Your situation is different. What types of information do you need to make the best possible decision?"

Third, let go of your need to be right. When you give advice, you expect people to take it. When they don’t, you may feel resentful and angry. To avoid this, simply avoid giving advice and describe what happened to you. As Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts, ma’am." Let them make their own decisions based upon their personal standards. 

Tip No. 8: Create boundaries.

Do you have a clear idea about what behaviors you will and will not tolerate? Many agents let unacceptable behaviors slide because their focus is on closing the transaction. Here’s how to create a boundary when you have a client who likes to yell and scream.

First, don’t ask him or her to stop yelling at you. That generally doesn’t work. Instead, ask for the behavior that you do want: "Would you please speak softly to me? I have trouble understanding when people raise their voices."

If the person continues to yell, make your request a second time. If that doesn’t work, say, "Would you please speak softly to me or otherwise I am going to hang up (or leave if you are face to face.)" If the yelling continues say, "I’m leaving now."

At that point, you must decide whether you really want to continue working with this client.

Tip No. 9: Always tell the truth, even when it may mean losing the deal.

In most cases, your clients will appreciate your truthfulness. The strategy is to be prepared with options about how to move forward. For example, when a geological inspection comes back with an issue, give your buyers the following choices:

"You have several options in terms of the geological report. The first is to ask the seller to take care of the slippage issue. The second is to hire your own contractor for an estimate and ask for a credit for that amount. The third is to walk away from the transaction. Which approach works best for you?"

Tip No. 10: If you can’t say something positive about someone else, don’t say anything.

Also, set a boundary that you will not listen to negative comments about other people. When someone starts to say something negative, do your best to exit the situation. Whatever you do, remember that others almost always repeat what they hear, especially on social media.

There are thousands of ways to raise the bar in your real estate business. Remember to focus on taking just one step at a time. Every time you raise the bar, you improve the quality of the clients you attract as well as improving your business and personal life.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named "new and notable" by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com. You can contact her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com or @BRoss on Twitter.

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