5 ways to keep sellers happy (even when things are going south)

Telling clients what you think they want to hear doesn’t help anyone

This post by Colleen Fischesser originally appeared on the Trulia Pro Blog, a blog for real estate professionals on Trulia.com. Follow Trulia Pro on Twitter: @TruliaPro.

Ever wished you could have a “do-over” with a seller? Go back to that kitchen table where you first met and rediscuss price or reset your client’s expectations — or maybe both?

Market update image via Shutterstock.
Market update image via Shutterstock.

If you’re like many listing agents, when you present your market analysis you use some version of the following script:

“Mr. and Mrs. Seller, my goal is to sell your home in the shortest amount of time, for the highest price, with the least amount of inconvenience.”

A wise goal considering the National Association of Realtors has identified that one of the top four things sellers expect from us is to sell within their time frame. And, in a healthy market, this should be an attainable goal.

But let’s face it, even in a good market some listings don’t sell as quickly as anticipated, and we find ourselves in the position of managing and maintaining the trust our clients placed in us.

So how do you keep sellers happy and minimize frustration during a longer-than-expected market time?

1. Consistent and properly delivered communication

This may seem like a no-brainer but many agents rarely (if ever) have this conversation with clients. How does the client want to be updated? Phone, email, text, in person?

How often does the client expect to hear from you? Will you give periodic updates and will that time frame be acceptable to the client? Remember, this could become a long-term relationship, so setting and managing expectations is a must. If your client is the sort who requires a phone call every morning, is that a level of service you can (or want to) deliver? If not, maybe you can reach a mutually agreeable alternative before an angry message is left in your voice mail.

2. Demonstrate market reach

Clients expect you to do “things.” In fact, they’re going to assume you’re doing them because you told them (at their kitchen table) you would. But 90 days down the road, if you haven’t been sharing and demonstrating those “things,” will you still be as credible when advocating for a price reduction?

The Internet has gifted listing agents with wonderful tools in the form of stats and hyperlinks. Weekly seller reports showing visitor counts, virtual tour activity, friend shares and more give sellers concrete evidence their property is “out there” and being seen. This transparency not only gives you content for those regular updates, it also validates future conversations where you feel an adjustment is necessary and removes any doubt about whether you’re earning your commission.

3. Report market activity

When new listings hit the market, or others sell, make sure the sellers are notified as quickly as possible. I set up new listing/sales alerts for sellers just as I would for buyers. When a new listing in the neighborhood comes on the market, or a competing property down the street goes under contract, they are notified right away and are able to assess their market position. If nothing is selling, nothing is selling. If competition is selling, then it’s time for a market review.

4. Be genuine

Nobody wants to hear from “that guy” who’s always putting an artificially positive spin on things (or a negative one for that matter), and no one is going to benefit from such a superficial approach. Always be honest and genuine in your feedback and communication. Telling sellers what you think they want to hear doesn’t help anyone. If you don’t know why their house isn’t selling, tell them so. “You’re priced right, feedback is great, it should be sold, but it’s not. Here are our options. …”

Seriously, people don’t go through the listing process because they like having strangers tour their home. They want to sell! They expect you to help guide them when making decisions about what it’s going to take to make that happen.

5. Be grateful

When market time on a listing goes beyond what was expected, it’s easy to slip into a defensive, reactive mindset. That file can become an emotional drain. Did I do something wrong? Was there something I could have done better? Are the sellers angry? Are they going to get angry? Are they going to call me any minute and be ticked? We’re human — we start to doubt ourselves and our skills when things don’t go as planned. Whenever my thoughts turn this direction, I stop and remind myself that out of thousands of brokers, these clients hired me. They chose me and for that I am grateful. Gratitude causes a shift in perspective and can instantly move you from reactive agent to proactive problem solver.

Getting from the kitchen table to the closing table is the ultimate goal — sometimes there are just a few detours along the way.


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