Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series.

Are you engaging in bad habits that annoy both your clients and other agents as well? In many cases, agents aren’t even aware that the actions they are taking are hurting their businesses. If you want to have better relationships with your client base, friends and other real estate professionals, it may be time for you to "raise the bar."

The Raise the Bar Facebook group is engaged in an ongoing discussion on how real estate professionals can improve their own business practices and thereby improve the overall quality of the real estate industry. I asked the group about what practices annoyed them most, as well as what action steps to take to eliminate these practices.

1. Stop settling for lousy photos
Real estate agent Eric Johnson suggests that you can raise the bar by taking better photos. "The one thing the public remembers the most is the horrible photos that are out of focus, too small, tilted, or off-center."

2. Not following up
Assume that you have taken a listing where you promised to update the sellers twice weekly with the latest listings, sales, as well as what has expired. It’s been three weeks since you did an update. How could you have avoided having this problem?

Mortgage originator Scott Layden suggests two solutions to this issue:

  • The first solution is to "time block." This means that you schedule your follow-up time at the beginning of the week and then you stick to the schedule.
  • The second step is to set an alert using your phone, transaction management system or your customer relationship management system (CRM) to remind you exactly when you are supposed to follow up. When you put the activity on your calendar and tie it to an alarm, you’re much more likely to take action.

Realtor Chris Squeo Pierce raised a slightly different version of the same issue: failure of agents who show your listings to provide any type of feedback on showings, even after you have called, emailed or texted them repeatedly. If you want the other agents to cooperate with you with respect to their listings and their buyers, it’s important that you make a concerted effort to respond to their requests, as well.

3. Failure to respond to showing and offer-presentation requests
The general manager of our company has been working with a friend to help her find a new home. They have called numerous real estate agents and have never even received a callback.

What’s even worse, they didn’t even get a callback when they wanted to write an offer on a property. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen to potential clients — it also happens repeatedly to agents who have offers on other agents’ listings.

If you find yourself in a situation where the listing agent is refusing to return your phone calls and you have an offer, you can contact their supervising broker or have your manager/broker make the contact.

It’s important to determine whether the agent is ill or there was some other reason that the person didn’t return your phone calls about the offer. There’s no need to alienate anyone if there is a legitimate reason the person didn’t get back to you.

If there appears to be no valid reason the agent is not getting back to you, a different alternative is to leave the listing agent a message via phone, text and email, saying you are sending the offer to the agent, the agent’s manager, and the sellers via messenger or overnight mail.

Please be aware that if you do this, you will probably have an angry listing agent on the other side of the deal, so it’s important to weigh your fiduciary duty to your client versus the possible bad-mouthing you may receive by the other agent.

4. Failure to properly identify yourself as an agent
This can take a number of different forms. Real estate broker Marilyn Urso says, "I find it annoying when agents call in for information or to make appointments for my listings and don’t properly identify themselves. I shouldn’t have to ask if they are Realtors. And seriously, some don’t even know their office phone number!"

Agent Nikki Beauchamp pointed out a similar issue with respect to email. "I got an email request from what appeared to be a dubious address (it actually seemed like spam). Now I know when I see that address (instead of the company one) which agent it is."

If you’re not already in the habit of doing so, be sure that when you contact both clients and other agents that you clearly state your name, your real estate brokerage, and, if you are leaving a message, your phone number.

In terms of your email, if your email address doesn’t clearly identify who you are, consider changing it. Ideally, it should include your name and "@" your website address. For example, "SallyAgent@AustinProbateSellers.com."

If you feel there is no way to change your email address, at least use the subject line of your email to identify the reason why you are contacting the recipient.

For example, when you have an offer on a property, include the property address and reference the fact that you have an offer: "re: Offer on 123 Main St. — when can it be presented to the seller?"

By utilizing the subject line, if the person does open his email, he will see your request, even if he doesn’t read the entire email.

Do you need more tips for raising the bar in your business? If so, see Part 2 of this series on Thursday.

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