If you want to attract more high-quality clients or if you merely want to provide a better level of service, there’s much to be learned from agents who specialize in the ultra high end.
Our last two columns looked at four strategies for serving the luxury market. Today’s column looks at how ultra-high-end agents build relationships with their clients and how you can apply these strategies in your business. No matter what price range you work in, strong client relationships are the key to keep your referral pipeline running strong.
In the 1980s and the 1990s, closing the prospect was the name of the game. The agent’s role was to provide expert advice and to close them on their purchase. Today, there has been a quantum shift in terms of how we close the luxury sale. While closing is still an essential part of any sale, today’s luxury agents understand that closing is a process that entails a complete customer experience. More than ever, buyers are smarter, better researched, and better informed about the purchasing process. If there is a six-figure commission, they expect A+ service from the moment they first contact you until well after the transaction has closed.
A second important ingredient is making the shift from rapport to relationship. Ultra-high-end agents always reference how important “relationship” is when working with these very special clients. Most successful agents can easily establish rapport. Being genuinely concerned about every client you work with, asking questions about what matters to the client, and then doing your best to help them find it, will begin to cement the shift from rapport to relationship. A long-lasting relationship, however, will result when you share an interest in the same activities. For example, are you involved in charitable fund raising? Do you have common recreational interests such as golf or tennis? Do you enjoy reading the same types of literature? Are you interested in the client because you genuinely like the person rather than valuing them for how much money they have?
A third tip is to avoid competing with your client. Many agents are eager to demonstrate their real estate expertise. Granted that you should be the expert, but your approach must focus on being a conduit of information to assist your clients in making the best possible decision for them. This means that you have a solid knowledge of the inventory, that you are a master of the market statistics, and that you are willing to provide the seller or buyer with this data and then allow them to decide. It also means that you never criticize their business manager, no matter how difficult he or she is.
Surprisingly, a fourth tip is to realize that many ultra-rich clients are frugal. In fact, some are so downright cheap that they never tip. Many of them achieved the wealth by being financially conservative. A great example is the president of KIA who is a multibillionaire. He still flies coach and takes notes on both sides of the paper as a role model for his employees.
A great book for understanding the luxury client’s mindset is the “The Millionaire Next Door.” This book outlines the characteristics of those who are ultra wealthy. They often live conservatively in nice, but less ostentatious neighborhoods. They may drive a nice car, but they will keep it for 10 or 15 years. They are active in civic activities and spend as much time with family and friends as possible. In other words, they don’t appear to be “rich.” Money is a detail, not a primary area of focus. Consequently, avoid dropping names or trying to be something you’re not in terms of your lifestyle. These tactics label you as “not one of us” and will often cause the client to look elsewhere for representation.
The key to connecting with the luxury client is to be you AND to share an interest in something that matters to them. In terms of your appearance, think understated elegance. Remember, you are selling a lifestyle, not just a property. Make sure that your clothing and accessories are in excellent condition — no run down heels or wrinkled looks. Second, make it a point to become actively involved in activities where high-end clients are likely to be involved. Charitable and civic activities are often terrific ways to meet luxury buyers. Alumni clubs are another good place to meet people who are like you and who are doing well. Again, people are drawn to those with whom they share common ties and common interests.
Want to know more about the luxury market? If so, see next week’s article, “Closing the Luxury Deal.”