It dawned on me the other day that at a certain price point, it doesn’t matter what I say to the customer at all.

For the starter apartment I’ve been selling, half my customers have come without brokers. They know very little about the home-buying process, and pose all kinds of eager questions it would never occur to a seasoned pro to ask.

But for the $8,000 luxury rental I’ve been showing, that isn’t the case. For one thing, customers aren’t looking hard for flaws because at this price point, there shouldn’t be any; for another, at this price point, they have their own brokers to do that searching for them.

And it’s those brokers I have to sell to. Those of you who are already experienced in the industry probably know this, but it especially came to me the other day when I was showing this loft — which truly does have no flaws other than its mind-boggling expensiveness — and I was seven minutes late to the appointment. Four by my watch, but seven by the customer’s broker’s, who was leaving me an irate message as I sped up to the door. And from that point, I knew I was sunk.

The customer loved the place. She “oohed” and “aahed” and made notes as to where she’d place her furniture. The school district was perfect for her kid, the nook perfect for her Grandma’s desk.

It didn’t matter and I knew it didn’t matter. The apartment could have come with an Academy Award and I couldn’t have leased it, because I knew the broker wasn’t convinced.

So when happy customer turned to me and said could she please bring her husband by that very afternoon, I smiled and said I’d do anything to accommodate, because I knew that phone call would never come. And it didn’t.

For the next customer, of course, I barely moved. I let her agent lead the tour, and I answered his questions. If a real highlight was being skipped over, like the fireplace, I pointed it out, but I basically treated the showing like I would have a PowerPoint presentation by a corporate boss. I didn’t just make the apartment look good; I made the other agent look good.

At the end of the tour, he told me they were making a circuit — yes, in NYC, there’s a lot on the market in this price range — and that he would put together a folder for his client.

Well of course I wanted to be the top sheet of paper in that folder. So two hours later, I sent him a follow-up e-mail, summarizing the features I thought our place had that the competition didn’t. (In this niche, for example, you have to say that the kitchen has a Sub-Zero because it’s a word the customer is looking for, but it’s hardly a comparative advantage that your listing has a $5,000 refrigerator because every apartment the customer sees has one.)

I was especially careful, in my follow-up e-mail, to emphasize features the other agent had liked. I knew what they were because I hadn’t watched the customer, I watched him. No one else I had shown the apartment to had seemed to care that parking was available across the street, but this agent did. He told his client that would make her safe if she came home late at night. It was an important detail to him, and he made it emotional to her. Translate a feature of the product into a benefit for the customer — that’s good solid selling. All I did was to remind him of it.

The response I received is that the client is going to Europe for the weekend, and will be back next week. We’ll see if anything happens.


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